Although insurers may be tempted to offer the full gamut of banking products and services, there are a finite number of products and services that consumers will acquire-with confidence-from insurance companies, industry observers say."A certificate of deposit (CD) with a locally available rate is very attractive," says Mark Walker, group vice president, financial services business team leader, at Walker Information Inc., an Indianapolis-based firm specializing in customer loyalty.

"A large number of people choose mortgage providers that they have little knowledge of, so there's no reason to think they would be adverse to buying a mortgage from an insurance agent," he says. "As long as the insurer can provide ease of application and a competitive rate, they have a shot."

Allstate Bank, a member of Northbrook, Ill.-based Allstate Financial Group, has found that CDs and money-market accounts are popular with its customers. "An easy account-opening process and rates that are higher than the national average remain our strong points," says Kevin Slawin, CEO of Allstate Bank.

Allstate Bank also offers mortgages to consumers with a guarantee of obtaining the lowest price. "This along with the current record-low interest rate has helped us launch into this business," he says.

Marketing success hinges on an agent's ability to understand the intricacies of the products. At State Farm, agent training for selling State Farm Bank's products and services is carried out both in the classroom and online.

Training encompasses not only the product line itself, but compliance issues agents need to be aware of, such as Fair Housing and Truth in Lending, says Stan Ommen, president of Bloomington, Ill.-based State Farm Bank.

When State Farm agents are trained and begin selling bank products, they earn commissions based on a flat fee for all loan and deposit products. Annually, agents are eligible for a bonus based on volume benchmarks, Ommen adds.

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