SunTrust Insurance Head Wants Channel Change

By Ackermann, Matt | American Banker, March 26, 2009 | Go to article overview

SunTrust Insurance Head Wants Channel Change


Ackermann, Matt, American Banker


Byline: Matt Ackermann

Steven Turtz, the new president of SunTrust Insurance Services Inc., said he was hired to "significantly" expand the SunTrust Banks Inc. unit by increasing distribution within the bank.

"This is a business that is ready to explode," Turtz said in an interview last week. "We have critical mass and we have proven that insurance products can be delivered through SunTrust. Now, we just have to take it to the next level."

Turtz, who succeeded David Sweigart, said there are a lot of ways to expand distribution through the Atlanta company's bank and wealth management channels.

SunTrust Insurance currently offers its products and services almost exclusively to the bank's high-net-worth customers; if it can offer insurance products to all of the bank's customers, the revenue payoff can be considerable, he said.

"SunTrust Insurance was built as a boutique business to handle one segment of customers, but I really believe I was brought in to increase distribution to all customers," he said.

"There are distribution channels and customers that SunTrust Insurance is just not taking advantage of, including the retail channel," Turtzsaid. "I think we are in a perfect storm, because currently there are a lot of banking customers that are worried about their portfolios and their assets. We can present another product and another solution that just isn't discussed very often. We haven't taken advantage of all the customers that SunTrust provides banking to."

Turtz, who started his new job last week after a stint with Comerica Inc., said he expectsSunTrust Insurance's revenue to increase by 30% to 40% in the next 24 months and that he expects to double business in the next three years.

"Quite frankly, we are heading in the right direction and we have certainly made strides in the right direction," he said. "We have the people in place to help make this a mainstream product."

In the past two years, SunTrust "didn't expand distribution" in insurance, he said.

"They filled a good space with SunTrust's wealthy clients, but since then they haven't taken advantage of their other channels. They became stagnant, and basically that is the reason I am here. …

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