David Sanderford, a pioneer of bank insurance sales, is relocating to Dallas to lead a small insurance company's sales through banks.

Beginning Dec. 1, Mr. Sanderford will be a managing vice president at Life Insurance Company of the Southwest, a $2 billion-asset company that sells fixed annuities to retirement plans for teachers and public employees. The 52-year-old insurance veteran will oversee the company's efforts to sell insurance products through banks, affinity groups, and independent insurance agents.

In July, Mr. Sanderford quit a similar post at Aetna Life and Casualty Cos., Hartford, Conn. In an interview Tuesday, he said he is looking forward to being a big fish in a small pond.

"I'm a member of the senior management and have a place at the table," he said. "At Aetna, the table was fully occupied by others."

At his new employer, banks are "the main event," Mr. Sanderford said. The company plans to sell fixed annuities, then variable annuities within six months to a year. Plans are in the works to sell term insurance, too.

He is planning to hire two business development professionals to help seek out clients. And he hopes to hire a third employee to help train bank employees to sell annuities.

Mr. Sanderford's resignation at Aetna was seen by some outsiders as the result of a clash with management over the company's approach to the bank marketplace.

But now, Mr. Sanderford has a different challenge. He must bring into the marketplace a virtual unknown. Larger companies such as Lincoln National Corp., Aegon USA, and ITT Hartford Life Insurance Co. already push their wares through banks.

"They're clearly not a household name," said Kenneth Kehrer, an insurance consultant in Princeton, N.J. "David knows the market and has contacts who will give him access to banks."

Mr. Sanderford thrives on such challenges. The most "entertaining and satisfying years in my life," he said, were in the early 1980s when he helped establish Seattle-based GNA Corp. as a leading seller of annuities through banks.

Life of the Southwest has been selling fixed annuities on a nominal basis through banks, including Detroit's Comerica Inc., for a few years. The company is owned by National Life of Vermont, a $9 billion-asset insurer in Montpelier.

Mr. Sanderford, who hails from Houston, said he is happy to be going back to his home state, where he can "get good Mexican food for a change."

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