Republic New York Corp. has reentered the business of selling life insurance to retail customers.

In August it began selling term, whole, and universal life and health insurance at its 84 metropolitan New York branches. And the company plans to add disability insurance to its lineup.

Republic has modest expectations - to generate about $7 million of premiums in 12 months-and a conservative attitude toward insurance, according to the executive in charge.

"By educating the customer rather than taking a hard-sell approach, people will make better-informed decisions," said John D. Pirraglia, president of Republic Insurance Agency.

In the early 1990s, Republic sold savings bank life insurance through branches it had acquired from thrifts. Mr. Pirraglia, a former Dime Bancorp insurance chief, joined Republic in 1990 to lead this effort.

But the company left the business in 1995 when it converted all its branches to commercial banks.

This latest insurance effort promises to be bolder than earlier moves. The company's 72 financial consultants are selling insurance alongside investment products. Republic has also hired six insurance consultants-all of whom have insurance agency, not bank, backgrounds.

Instead of developing its own back office for insurance sales, Republic has hired the insurance services subsidiary of Bisys Group, Little Falls, N.J., to administer the program.

"We decided to use them because they have relationships with a number of carriers. What we didn't want to do is just have one company," Mr. Pirraglia said.

And while Republic will use a handful of large carriers, Mr. Pirraglia said, he felt strongly that the public's focus should be on trusting Republic's due diligence rather than on the underwriters' names and reputations.

He refused to disclose which underwriters the company is initially using but said they are rated at least A-minus by A.M. Best Co.

Though it has handed off the bulk of administration support, Republic built its own system for initial review of applications.

"We just felt that it was important to have that level of comfort for customers that we were signing off before it went to Bisys and the insurance carrier," Mr. Pirraglia said.

As an additional safeguard, a team of three dedicated employees trained in compliance issues will review each application.

"We like the Republic approach in that they do a cursory quality check," said Robert K. Gallmann, senior vice president for financial institutions markets at Bisys Insurance Services.

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