New England Mutual Life Insurance Cos. is adding to its banking industry arsenal with a new hire and a new product.

The Boston-based insurance company has hired William P. Franca, a former sales representative at a small brokerage firm, to market annuities and life insurance to banks and third-party marketing firms in the Southeast.

New England Mutual also has begun targeting banks with American Gateway Series, a variable life policy designed for estate planning.

The combination of Mr. Franca and the new product will "make us a force to be reckoned with" in the bank channel, Ken Schweiger, vice president in charge of sales through banks, said in a statement.

Mr. Franca, a vice president, will report to Mr. Schweiger. Mr. Franca comes to New England Mutual from Wood Logan, a brokerage firm in Old Greenwich, Conn. He has also worked at Transamercia Corp., a life insurance company based in San Francisco, and he was a regional sales manager at the brokerage unit of Glendale (Calif.) Federal Bank.

His first client will be Barnett Banks Inc., according to a New England Mutual spokeswoman. Mr. Franca will help train the Jacksonville, Fla.-based banking company's investment representatives to sell the firm's variable annuities and life insurance.

In his new position, he will also market American Gateway, which was designed specifically for banks. New England Mutual has made it easier to qualify for than similar products sold through agents.

To meet estate planning needs, American Gateway offers second-to-die coverage policies, which are used to pass death benefits to heirs tax free.

New England's moves come in the midst of plans to sell out to Metropolitan Life Insurance Co., a deal expected to close at the end of August. MetLife recently signed an agreement to place its agents in the branches of Glendale Federal.

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