Nationwide Financial Services, best known in bank circles for its variable annuities, is aiming to beef up the mix of products it sells through banks, a key executive said.

The company also has ambitious plans to sign up 300 more banks by yearend, more than doubling its client roster, according to Karen Eisenbach, president of its Nationwide Financial Institution Distributors Agency.

Nationwide wants sales through banks to hit $2.7 billion in 1999, she said during a meeting Wednesday with American Banker. That works out to a 29% increase from last year's $2.1 billion of sales.

Variable annuities would continue to dominate the sales picture-the company expects 20% growth, to $2.2 billion in 1999, Ms. Eisenbach said.

But Nationwide expects faster growth from fixed annuities, pension investments, variable life insurance, and offshore products. Ms. Eisenbach has set a sales target of $500 million, versus $300 million in sales last year, a 67% increase.

"We want to go broader and deeper with our current accounts," she said.

The Columbus, Ohio, insurance company has been grappling over the past year with how to "take all the products Nationwide offers and deliver them in the bank channel," Ms. Eisenbach explained. In response, she has realigned her group's customer relationship teams to give client banks a single contact at Nationwide, no matter what products they are seeking.

She said Nationwide already has sales agreements with 222 banks, including 35 of the top 50 sellers of variable annuities. It wants to land the other 15 top sellers as clients, Ms. Eisenbach said. Among its targets: the new BankAmerica Corp. and Wells Fargo & Co., and Amsouth Bancorp.

Though competition has limited banks' shelf space for insurance products, there is room for growth, Ms. Eisenbach added. She said there is more top-level support for expanding in the high-revenue investments business.

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