Instead of buying an insurance agency, Philadelphia Federal Credit Union is opening its own and has hired a provider of insurance agency services to run it.
Employees of the $375 million-asset credit union will distribute marketing materials about its new subsidiary, PFCU Insurance Services LLC, and refer them to an 800 number. But employees of Banc Insurance Services Inc. will sell the products and operate the agency out of their companys Springfield, Mass., headquarters.
The arrangement was announced Thursday, and sales are expected to begin in September.
On behalf of Philadelphia Federal, Banc Insurances staff of agents will sell auto, homeowner, life, business, and long-term-care insurance over the phone to the credit unions members and through referrals from its employees. The credit union will retain the renewal rights to the policies it sells through Banc Insurance.
The Philadelphia Federal subsidiary in charge of the insurance agency and other nonbank services is PFCU Services. Mark Craven, its chief executive officer, said a survey of the credit unions 98,000 members found they were interested in being able to buy insurance products through it.
After considering several options the credit union selected Banc Insurance because we really wanted to offer our members the largest number of product choices at the best rates we could give, with the convenience of a 1-800 number, Mr. Craven said.
Philadelphia Federal serves the citys nonuniformed workers those other than firefighters, police officers, and sanitation workers as well as 475 small businesses and their employees.
Banc Insurance Services, meanwhile, had been looking to expand beyond Massachusetts. Its other four financial institution clients are all there Berkshire Bank of Pittsfield, Middlesex Savings Bank of Natick, Bridgewater Savings Bank, and Community Bank of Brockton. Philadelphia Federal is its first credit union client.
Jeffrey Chesky, the president and chief executive officer of Banc Insurance, said its model is based on a very simple premise: that community banks and credit unions cant make money operating smaller stand-alone insurance agencies.
This is especially true for community banks with $1 billion to $2 billion of assets, which have several branches over a large geographic area, Mr. Chesky said. Those banks would need to buy and operate several agencies to cover their territory, he said.
Our model works best with banks that have multiple branches in multiple communities, especially those with between $300 million and $2 billion of assets, which are the companys sweet spot, he said.
Banc Insurances financial institution clients pay the company set-up and management fees, as well as a percentage of the sales commissions.
By bundling together the banks business, Banc Insurance can negotiate better deals with insurance companies than the banks could do on their own, Mr. Chesky said.
Banks do not need to have insurance agents in the branches, because customers do not want them there, he said.
Our own research shows that 86% percent of Americans have not been in their agents offices in the past three years, Mr. Chesky said. Customers dont want to visit with agents face to face. Any bank insurance model that includes having agents on the platform is a recipe for losses.
But Jeffrey A. Myers, director of public affairs for the Independent Insurance Agents of America in Alexandria, Va., said his groups research shows that 60% of personal insurance customers want a face-to-face meeting with their agents, and 25% prefer to conduct business over the telephone.
Mr. Chesky said that his company is in discussions with 20 more community banks and credit unions, and that it expects to sign contracts with several of them by yearend.