Transamerica Life Insurance Cos. has set up a sales and marketing unit to help community banks and credit unions build investment products programs.

Through Transamerica Financial Resources Inc., the Los Angeles-based insurer is trying to match its legion of investment representatives in small towns with financial institutions in there.

"The community banks have been soliciting our reps in the field, asking if we can support them in the financial services area," said Jeffrey C. Goodrich, vice president and national director of marketing for Transamerica's community bank marketing division.

Transamerica isn't new to the bank marketplace. The company has been pitching annuities and insurance for years to investment representatives at several major banks, including Wells Fargo & Co., NationsBank Corp. and Wachovia Corp.

But to get the attention of community banks, Transamerica must do more than hawk products, Mr. Goodrich said. That's because most small banks don't have brokerage units and are looking for help.

Citing a study by American Brokerage Consultants Inc. of St. Petersburg, Fla., Mr. Goodrich said only 42% of community banks have investment services programs.

Transamerica's plan is to supply investment representatives employed by Transamerica to sell Transamerica insurance products in bank branch lobbies. These reps will also offer customers advice on buying stocks, bonds, and third-party mutual funds.

Mr. Goodrich's goal is to sign up 15 banks in the next six months and get community banks and credit unions - those with between $50 million and $500 million in assets - to contribute more than 10% of gross revenues to Transamerica Financial.

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