At a time when an increasing number of companies are reportedly scaling back their wholesale forces, Guardian Life Insurance Company said today that it has hired 17 new wholesalers and plans to hire one more.

The firm, which provides insurance products as well as mutual funds and other investment vehicles, plans to ramp up its efforts in the small business retirement plan market. Dennis Mosticchio, VP of the company’s group pensions unit, said Guardian has built a client base of about 6,000 since it forayed into the 401(k) business eight years ago. Now, he said the firm has developed new technologies to service the plans and wants to target the market more aggressively.

The new staff will be part of a 36-member sales force that will work out of 28 states, the company said.

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