Allianz Life Insurance Co. of North America plans to add bank distribution alliances and increase its multicultural marketing efforts next year, according to the company's new director of sales and distribution. Hayward Sawyer, who joined the company in June and was promoted to the twin posts in December, says Allianz Life is in the process of hiring a manager to expand its bank relationships in the next 12 months."We currently have a couple major relationships, but we want to work with major banks, including regional banks," he says.

Allianz Life already works with six banks but the Minneapolis unit of Munich-based Allianz AG wants to add four regional banks to the mix in 2005. "Bank distribution is an important part of the business plan, and we want to make sure we can provide the proper coverage to those banks," he says.

Targeting ethnic groups

"Another major goal is our multicultural initiative that we started earlier this year. It includes targeting the Asian, Hispanic, and African-American markets," he said. These efforts are part of a six-year plan, he adds.

In terms of distribution through all channels, Sawyer says that Allianz Life's equity index annuity ranks No. 1 in sales, and it is No. 2 in the fixed annuity arena.

Ultimately, "we want to be No. 1 in the variable annuity market, and we are working with our broker-dealers on how to expand market share" overall, not just in the bank channel, he says.

On the way to this goal Allianz Life has set objectives for its broker-dealers to move into the Top 10 in variable annuity sales by 2010, Sawyer says. It currently is 13th.

"Part of the execution is to institute a branding campaign where the objective is to create a positive awareness of Allianz," Sawyer says. The company has commissioned television ads and is sponsoring nine PGA golf events.

Allianz Life is also developing life insurance and long-term-care products, according to Sawyer, adding that it is too early to discuss their details.

Regarding the multicultural marketing campaign, he says, "It's important to reach out to specific markets, to make sure people on the phone speak their language, to make sure sales materials are available in their language." Eventually prospectuses will be made available in different languages, he adds.

"It's a long-term commitment, but it's beginning now. We're giving ourselves six years to get in the right position in those markets," Sawyer says.

Sawyer joined Allianz Life last summer as the national sales director for USAllianz Investor Services, leading sales, marketing, distribution, and product efforts.

As part of the moves to carry out its strategy, Allianz Life has appointed other executives in the enterprise and individual life segments of its business.

In July, Lynn Tyson was appointed president and chief marketing officer of USAllianz Securities Inc., the company's broker-deal unit. And Jay Melquist was hired to be a senior vice president in the individual insurance products division. The hiring of Doug Reynolds from Best Buy to be chief operating officer was announced in December.

Allianz Life is a provider of fixed and variable annuities, life policies, and long-term-care products.

This article originally appeared in American Banker, another Thomson Media publication. It has been edited for this publication.

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