BB&T Agency Deal Fills a Product Gap: Company Is Looking to Acquire Further in Employee Benefits Area

Article excerpt

The president of BB&T Insurance Services has a message for owners of employee benefits agencies in areas where his company already has a property and casualty agency.

"We're looking to continue buying; we're not done," said Wade Reece, president of the insurance unit of $70.3 billion-asset BB&T Corp. of Winston-Salem, N.C. His latest employee benefits agency acquisition was the deal announced Monday for Professional Benefits Management Inc. in Greensboro, N.C., which is to cross-sell with BB&T Poole Insurance, a property and casualty agency in Greensboro that BB&T bought in the mid-1990s. Terms of the deal, which is expected to close in February, were not disclosed.

"This is classically what we've done and what we'll continue doing," Mr. Reece said. "By buying Professional Benefits Management, we'll be able to round out our insurance offerings in the Greensboro area."

About 65% of BB&T Insurance Services' revenues come from property and casualty insurance and 70% of this from commercial customers. So, Mr. Reece said, employee benefits is a natural addition.

"We're dealing with business clients most of the time, and any commercial client we visit wants to talk about group health, disability, COBRA, and other employee benefits insurance lines," Mr. Reece said. "Of course we want to talk to them about getting all their insurance from us."

Of the 69 agencies BB&T already owns, about one-third have employee benefits capabilities, Mr. Reece said. Those that do not are getting matched up with employee benefits specialists.

Last month BB&T closed a deal for O'Neal & Hinson Insurance Services in Macon, Ga. BB&T had bought a property and casualty agency in Macon three years before. BB&T also bought employee benefits agencies last year after buying property and casualty agencies in Martinsville and Roanoke, Va. Each employee benefits agency has linked up with the local property and casualty agency to cross-sell.

"There are still a lot of places we can expand into by buying employee benefits agencies," Mr. Reece said. He declined to name sites.

Craig Whitehead, a senior consultant at Milliman USA in Chicago, said BB&T has a clear strategy to build its employee benefits business. …