Essex Corp., the New York-based insurance marketing firm, entered an alliance Friday with People's Bank of California to sell fixed and variable annuities.

Los Angles-based People's, with $1.7 billion of assets, has 19 retail branches in three Southern California counties. People's, which began an investment sales program two years ago, had been working with Liberty Financial Cos., but opted to switch to Essex, which will help train branch employees in investment sales, according to William Flader, executive vice president of People's.

"We wanted to have a hybrid program where our platform people could sell the products," Mr. Flader said, referring to branch employees who cross- sell.

"Essex really has the most experience in that area and has a better track record in terms of performance. It seemed they were the way to go," he added.

In preparation for the move, about half of the bank's 90 platform workers, or branch employees that cross-sell, are getting licensed to sell insurance.

Essex is the country's third-largest distributor of annuities, life insurance, and mutual funds through financial institutions, with 1996 sales of $3.1 billion.

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