MetLife Inc. said that it had taken the first step toward offering banking services to its customers, establishing a new unit within its subsidiary, Metropolitan Life Insurance Co.

Judy Weiss, an executive vice president, was named head of the new unit, reporting to Robert H. Benmosche, chairman and chief executive officer of MetLife.

Ms. Weiss will develop a strategy for offering products such as checking and savings accounts, individual retirement accounts, and online bill payment to the company's roughly nine million households in the United States by the beginning of next year.

"Offering banking services will give MetLife the opportunity to provide our existing and future customers greater flexibility, security, and convenience in meeting their financial goals," Mr. Benmosche said.

Ms. Weiss added that the plan would also enable MetLife to develop new opportunities for the company's individual and institutional businesses.

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