Nationwide Financials efforts over the past year to increase distribution of its life insurance, annuity, and group pension products through banks have borne fruit.
Third-quarter bank sales of $867 million topped the year-earlier level by 32%, and the full year tally is headed for $3.2 billion, a 28% rise, said Matt Riebel, president of Nationwide Financial Distributors Agency Inc., which provides products to banks.
Fixed annuities were the standout in the quarter: Bank sales in that category grew 59%, to $121 million. Variable annuities, Nationwides core product for banks, also did well they rose 15%, to $605 million. Sales of group pension products rose 189%, to $104 million.
Sales through banks of offshore fixed annuities and variable annuities, a market the Columbus, Ohio, company entered last year, were $28 million, up 127%.
Weve hired several people who concentrate on growing our fixed-annuity business, Mr. Riebel said. Weve really redone how we price our products, how we market our products, and how we do the servicing.
Mr. Riebel noted that fixed-annuity products earned Nationwide a Crystal Pyramid award from the Boston research firm Dalbar Inc. It was one of two companies to get an excellent rating in a Dalbar customer satisfaction survey (the survey results were released Nov. 1).
The company also expanded its bank channel business by providing training programs for bank employees, client seminars, and other marketing and service support, Mr. Riebel said.
Nationwide is a very committed player in this market, said Carmen Effron, president of C.F. Effron Co., a Westport, Conn., consulting firm. It also has a wide array of products, so it can offer bank clients flexibility when market conditions change, she said.
In general, annuity products are successful for banks, said Richard D. Starr, director of ABN Amro Insurance Services of Chicago and chairman of the Financial Institutions Insurance Association. In many programs, annuities are as much as 65% of their total nonbank sales, he said.
Fixed annuities are a good entry point for banks in the insurance market, Mr. Starr said, because the licensing requirements are less arduous than those of variable annuities or mutual funds.
Mr. Riebel said Nationwide has done more in the addition of new banks and finding new opportunities in our existing relationships this year than wed done in the previous three years.
And there is plenty of room to do more, he said. Even in a program thats doing very well, he said, banks may have only penetrated 3% to 5% of their customer base meaning bank customers owning investment or insurance products and thats in a really good program.