Magazine article American Banker

Bank Channel Buoyed Hartford in a Rocky 1Q

Magazine article American Banker

Bank Channel Buoyed Hartford in a Rocky 1Q

Article excerpt

Its bad first-quarter results overall did not sour Hartford Financial Services Inc.'s bank-channel business, company data show.

Life insurance sales through financial institutions grew, mutual fund sales bounced back a bit, and The Hartford easily remained a dominant provider of variable annuities through banks.

Its life insurance sales through banks also rose from what was a strong fourth-quarter total. Year-over-year life sales nearly tripled, to a shade under $3.6 million in the first quarter.

"We're encouraged because the fourth quarter is typically a strong one in the life insurance industry," said Bruce Ferris, a vice president and the director of sales and marketing at Hartford Life, a Hartford Financial Services Group subsidiary in Simsbury, Conn. "Investors are working on yearend tax planning, and brokers are trying to end the year strong. So to be up from the fourth quarter is encouraging," he said.

Most of Hartford's life premium came from variable universal life sales.

For Hartford, the bank-channel results were welcome. The company reported a net first-quarter loss of $1.4 billion and also announced last week, when its earnings were released, that there would be 1,500 layoffs, most of them in the property/casualty side of the business.

Later last week the company sold a block of its reinsurance business.

"The news of layoffs always affects the entire company; it's not something anyone wants to see," Mr. Ferris said. None of the layoffs would directly involve the bank distribution group, he said, however. "We expect to refocus and regroup and get back to growth."

In the bank channel, there already was growth. The Hartford had $140 million of mutual fund sales through banks in the quarter, up 35% from $103.4 million in the fourth quarter, though fund sales were down from last year's first quarter, when volume was $223 million. …

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