Magazine article American Banker

Insurance: Bancorp South Adding Property Policies

Magazine article American Banker

Insurance: Bancorp South Adding Property Policies

Article excerpt

Almost two years ago BancorpSouth, looking to build fee income from insurance, took what it considered to be a natural first step: It began building a life agency to first serve Tennessee, then Mississippi.

But the Tupelo, Miss.-based company soon discovered just how difficult it is to drum up sales.

"The life piece itself has been very slow developing," said Tom Murry, managing director of BancorpSouth Insurance Services. Customers are "not in any hurry (to buy) and we're trying to show that we're not in any hurry (to sell)."

So BancorpSouth is expanding into the more lucrative business of property/casualty insurance. The $5.5 billion-asset company made its first move in that direction with an announcement this month that it is buying the largest property/casualty agency in Mississippi, Stewart Sneed Hewes Group. The Gulfport agency is among the 75 largest in the country.

"We came in with a major play right out of the box," bank vice chairman Michael Weeks said.

BancorpSouth says it does not plan to abandon life insurance, and its life sales are increasing. Last year it sold $50 million in life insurance coverage, and it had sold $35 million in coverage by the first week of April.

But the company is not satisfied. Compared with its peers, BancorpSouth is "behind the bubble" in increasing fee income, Mr. Weeks said.

The deal for the property and casualty agency would go a long way toward increasing BancorpSouth's fee income, said Joseph Roberto, an analyst with Keefe, Bruyette & Woods Inc. …

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