Sun Life Financial is targeting banks with wealthy clients in an effort to boost sales of its variable universal life products.

The Wellesley Hills, Mass., unit of Sun Life Financial Services of Canada Inc. already has selling arrangements with First Union Corp., Wells Fargo & Co., and Bank One Corp. “The banks have relationships with the mass affluent, and they’re a distribution channel that we need to tap more,” said Imants Saksons, vice president of national accounts in the individual insurance division for Sun Life Financial.

He said the company sells a small percentage of variable universal life policies through banks and wants to work with more banks that have a solid client base of 35-to-55-year-olds with assets of at least $100,000, not including the worth of their primary home. “That’s a lot of people these days,” he said.

Val Jordan, president of the consulting firm Jordan & Jordan Associates of Belchertown, Mass., said no insurer has done well selling life products for the affluent through banks, “but someone is going to. There is no question about that. When a bank sees that they can make more money on one of these sales than in a month of direct response sales, they’ll figure it out.”

But variable universal life “is a confusing sale, and it’ll take time and a lot of organizing,” Ms. Jordan said. “The client already has an accountant and an attorney. We have tax, retirement, and estate planning needs in this sale, so the bank has to bring the financial planner and the life insurance expert together as well, because the financial planner doesn’t know a whole lot about some of the insurance issues.”

Mr. Saksons said that, “right now” at Sun Life, driving up sales through banks “is second to spending more time trying to figure out what a bank’s specific needs are. What do they need to support the sale? Do they need educational training? Will they make the sale through branches, or will it be with a link to their trust accounts? Each bank has to figure that out.”

He would not discuss the implications of the Toronto parent company’s plan to buy Keyport Life Insurance Co. and Independent Financial Marketing Group from Lincoln Financial Co. in Boston. The deal for Lincoln’s two major bank-insurance manufacturing and distribution subsidiaries was announced May 3 and is expected to close in the third quarter.

Meanwhile, Sun Life has announced a new variable universal life product, Futurity Protector, and enhancements to Futurity Accumulator and Futurity Survivorship II.

Survivorship II is a second-to-die product, meaning it covers two people and the benefit is paid on the second death. The other two products cover one person; all three are intended to help customers manage estate costs.

A Supplemental Insurance Rider, letting the client add extra coverage when needed, has been incorporated into all the products.

The product announcements were made Thursday. Sun Life also announced it now has 12 fund managers for the product trio, up from seven, and 42 investment options, up from 31.


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