The trade group for community banks in Missouri has set up an insurance agency to market insurance products to its member banks.

The Missouri Independent Bankers Association plans soon to begin supplying employee benefits insurance to the work forces of its member banks. It also plans to help its 200 members sell property and casualty, mortgage, and life insurance to customers.

"We're putting this together to offer an alternative to our members who would rather do business with a community bankers association," said Jerry Sage, the group's executive director.

The Missouri Bankers Association offers a similar service, Mr. Sage said, but it gives larger member banks better prices on their employee benefit plans.

Spearheading the operation for the independent bankers group is Gerald Littell, who owned his own brokerage agency in Columbia, Miss., before taking the job with the community bankers.

Mr. Littell said the association is in negotiations with a large property and casualty insurer to become an exclusive provider of products through its member banks.

The association wants to strike a deal in which it would publicly endorse the insurer and recommend that its members refer customers to a local agent employed by that insurer. In return, the association would get a cut of the revenues the agent earns from bank customers.

Mr. Littell said this deal is probably six months to a year down the road. He conceded that many banks want to compete with insurance agents.

"How receptive they'll be to getting into this program I don't know," he said.

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