Roger E. Dunker, former head of KeyCorp.'s insurance unit, has been hired by First Union Corp. to help it in what has become a growing business for banks.

Mr. Dunker, 52, who had been president and chief executive officer of Cleveland-based KeyCorp Insurance Management Group since July 1997, began Monday at First Union. He takes a new post at the Charlotte, N.C., banking company and will lead internal wholesaling of life insurance and annuities.

Mr. Dunker will report to David de Gorter, president of First Union Corp.'s insurance group.

First Union's decision to hire Mr. Dunker could indicate that it is interested in underwriting insurance, said Kenneth Kehrer, a consultant in Princeton, N.J. "One of Dunker's strengths would be in the underwriting business."

Before joining KeyCorp, Mr. Dunker was president of Life Partners Group in Denver, which is now part of Conseco Inc. He was also president of Prudential Select Life Insurance Co. of America in Newark, N.J.

Though neither Mr. de Gorter nor Mr. Dunker was available to comment, an executive from another insurance company said Mr. de Gorter was "thrilled to land" Mr. Dunker.

Several insurance and banking sources suggested that Mr. Dunker's decision to move from KeyCorp may have been influenced by changes within the company. Since KeyCorp bought McDonald & Co., a local brokerage firm, last October, McDonald executives have wielded increasing power in securities and insurance operations.

Mr. Dunker will also be working for a bigger company in First Union, whose $230 billion of assets outstrips $81 billion-asset KeyCorp.

Mr. Dunker was building a broad-ranging insurance operation at KeyCorp, with a particular emphasis on selling to small and midsize businesses.

A spokesman for KeyCorp said the company would decline to comment on Mr. Dunker's departure except to say that he left last Thursday.

KeyCorp immediately began looking for a successor, the spokesman said.

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