In an effort to attract middle-income consumers to its retirement planning products and services, Allstate Financial Group today launched new, basic banking services throughout its California agencies.

The services, which include CDs, insured money market, savings and checking accounts as well as home mortgages, will also be offered nationally through a Web site, allstatebank.com, and a call center.

The unit, a branch of well-known insurance provider Allstate, already offers mutual funds and other investment products through roughly 40% of its agents, said spokeswoman Laura Margolis. The basic banking services are designed to attract middle-income earners -- an underserved market, as the firm sees it -- to those products, she said.

The firm plans to offer the banking services first as a pilot program in California. The products will be available through the portion of its California agents who are licensed to offer financial products. Allstate will then expand the services to agencies across the U.S., Margolis said. About 5,000 of the company's 12,500 agents nationwide are licensed to provide such services.

Allstate was licensed in 1998 by the Office of Thrift Supervision to provide cash management services, Margolis said. In July, that body approved the company's bid to provide loans and deposits. Allstate officials would not comment as to whether the new services are an effort to diversify its revenue stream in a turbulent economy, or whether the move is intended to compensate for other struggling units.

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