International Bancshares of Laredo, Tex., has started an insurance subsidiary to consist of an agency it bought in January and another one it is buying.

Randol Alexander Insurance Agency and the Dan Corrigan Agency, both of San Antonio, are to sell policies through International Bancshares' 90 branches under the new subsidiary, IBC Insurance Agency.

Financial terms were not given for the Corrigan purchase or the Randol Alexander deal, which was announced Monday and is expected to be finalized in days.

"We're trying to enlarge the scope of our ability to deliver insurance services," said Dennis Nixon, chairman and chief executive officer of $5.6 billion-asset International Bancshares and president of International Bank of Commerce-Laredo, the holding company's lead bank.

In both deals, Mr. Nixon said, "We're not only acquiring the agency business but, more importantly, the talent and the expertise contained in those agencies."

Through IBC Insurance Agency, the bank's customers and the general public will get access to a full line of insurance products at the branches or by phone. In both cases people will be referred to insurance specialists, Mr. Nixon said.

The agency is an outgrowth of the bank's establishment of a financial holding company in March, as allowed by Gramm-Leach-Bliley. International Bancshares had been offering insurance through an alliance with Banker's Insurance Agency.

"We have a large customer base, and we're generating a lot of inquiries for insurance products," Mr. Nixon said.

John Haesley, executive vice president of the Texas Bankers Association, in Austin, said, "Since the passage of Gramm-Leach-Bliley there has been a lot of interest in community banks to expand their product lines to include insurance.

But he estimates that fewer than 35 of the 700 community banks in Texas are selling insurance.

"For the survival of the community bank charter, it is important that a full range of products and services can be offered in a rapidly changing environment," Mr. Haesley said. "The nonbanks are probably the biggest threat, and they've been predators on our customers for the last 20 years."

Offering a full menu of products and services, including Internet banking, is the best way to compete with "the Merrill Lynches of the world," he said.

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