BB&T to expand insurance business

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It looks like BB&T's already dominant insurance brokerage business is about to get even bigger.

Even though the bank derives an astoundingly high 15% of its revenues from insurance, it has set a long-term target of getting that to 20%, Kelly King, the bank's CEO, told analysts at a recent Morgan Stanley conference in New York.
"It's a very good business all around," he said. "It's very stable. We like it a lot."

King expressed confidence that the bank could achieve the 20% target, saying that there were enough opportunities to grow both organically and through acquisitions.

"We have a phenomenal insurance team," he bragged.

King's comments echo remarks delivered by the bank's CFO, Daryl Bible, at an analyst conference in London last month.

Bible noted that the bank had been in the insurance brokerage business since the 1920s and that it was core to the company. "The retail side of our insurance brokerage works really well with our banking side," he said.

When asked whether the bank might acquire Wells Fargo’s insurance brokerage unit, which is rumored to be in play, Bible demurred, saying he could not comment on potential acquisitions.

Wells Fargo was reported to be weighing a sale of the unit for some $2 billion, according to an article in Bloomberg News.

Aside from emphasizing BB&T's commitment to the insurance business, Bible said that the bank was particularly interested in the Pennsylvania and Texas markets, where it was looking to grow "some more."

It makes sense for banks to acquire local insurance agencies as mom-and-pop shops seek to consolidate and exit the business, said Jay Sarzen, a senior property and casualty analyst at consulting firm Aite Group.

"Banks are well-positioned as insurance agents," he said.

Sarzen stopped short on weighing in on a potential acquisition of Wells Fargo's insurance business as he did not know Wells Fargo's thinking or have the ability to break out the numbers of the two banks.

"It's tough for me to say if this is a great move for BB&T," he said.

BB&T generated $458 million in revenue from insurance brokerage in the first quarter, up 38% year-over-year and up 9% from the prior quarter, according to the bank's latest earnings release. Investment banking and brokerage fees and commissions, in contrast, generated only $91 million, while trust and advisory services brought in just $68 million.

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Insurance Kelly King Daryl Bible BB&T