Two North Carolina companies have paired to parlay their local appeal into more annuity sales in the Tar Heel State.

Centura Banks Inc., a $5 billion-asset company based in Rocky Mount, expanded its investment products portfolio to include fixed and variable rate annuities from its neighbor Jefferson-Pilot Life Insurance, Greensboro.

Brand identity played a key role in Centura's decision to add Jefferson- Pilot to its stable of annuity underwriters, which already included such powerhouses as ITT Hartford Life Insurance Cos., Aetna Life Insurance and Annuity Co., and Sun Life of Canada.

"Jefferson-Pilot is a North Carolina-based institution that's very well known in the market," said William W. Wilkerson, senior executive vice president of Centura Banks.

Revenue from Jefferson-Pilot's Alpha variable-rate and FlexSavers fixed- rate annuities is already flowing to the bank's bottom line.

"It's already proved true that customers know and trust" Jefferson- Pilot, said Mr. Wilkerson, citing the $1 million in sales racked up during July - the first month the products were offered.

Centura projects sales of $50 million for all annuity products this year, Mr. Wilkerson said.

Many banking customers find annuities complex and a bit daunting, and a familiar name be reassuring, said Anne M. Moore, president of Synergistics, a financial services research and consulting firm based in Atlanta.

"Especially for older and conservative consumers, a company they know - and that is home-based in North Carolina - gives them a higher comfort level," she said.

Jefferson-Pilot first developed annuities for sale through banks eight years ago, said Frank G. Mahoney, a senior vice president at the company. Its banking partners now number 50, primarily in the Carolinas and neighboring states.

In 1994 Jefferson-Pilot sold $230 million in annuities, $85 million of which was through banks, Mr. Mahoney said.

The company started off selling annuities through community banks but has moved upscale, focusing now on midsize banks like Centura.

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