As large banks have stepped up their insurance programs, they often have found it difficult to keep management teams.

In the past year the insurance chiefs at banking companies including Hibernia Corp., Fleet Financial Group, Crestar Financial Corp., and BankAmerica Corp. have left.

"I joke with people that the half-life of a bank insurance executive is one year," said Robert L. Nellson, who stepped down as head of Barnett Banks' insurance effort last year before NationsBank Corp. bought the company.

The reasons for departures vary, according to bankers and industry observers. Some insurance executives have been forced out when results have not met company leaders' expectations. Others have left on their own, sometimes out of frustration that their programs were not getting the corporate support they felt they deserved.

"A lot of people have been put in positions where it's difficult for them to succeed," said Mr. Nellson, who is managing director at DeHayes Consulting Group, Ponte Vedra, Fla.

Most of the banking industry sees the turnover as a byproduct of the rapid growth in new businesses for banks, including investment products.

Kenneth Reynolds, executive director of Banks-in-Insurance, a Washington-based trade group, said: "There are certainly cases where institutions didn't think through the expectations for the programs."

Last fall Hibernia dismissed James H. Meredith as head of its program without an explanation. About the same time Fleet Financial Group terminated Robert Evans; the company had soured on its initial insurance plans and was scaling down operations.

In June, L. John Raymond left Crestar after four years. And this spring Joseph Raftery quietly left BankAmerica.

Mr. Raymond, a former Allstate executive, originally welcomed the challenges of joining a bank, he said, but "I certainly got a sense that there are differences in cultures between insurers and financial institutions."

Someone with insurance background can help a bank capitalize on the opportunities, he said. But banks are increasingly turning to people with banking backgrounds for top insurance positions.

Dennis R. Kosovac, the president of Chase Manhattan Corp.'s insurance division, said one reason for the management turnover is that banks are not developing a coherent strategy for insurance sales. He was in constant consultation with upper management in developing Chase's insurance strategy, he said.

Many institutions roll out an insurance product or two on the basis of what looks like a good margin, instead of looking at a broader spectrum of offerings, Mr. Kosovac said. Life insurance may look good on the surface but prove mediocre once distribution costs and the time to profitability are factored in, he added.

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