Nationwide Financial said yesterday that it would buy Provident Mutual Life in a $1.56 billion sponsored demutualization.

Provident Mutual will give Nationwide more variable life products and additional distribution channels, according to Andy Gold, senior financial analyst at AM Best in Oldwick, N.J. The acquisition will make Nationwide the nation’s third largest provider of variable life insurance. Provident Mutual also will add 768 financial consultants, 1,100 independent agents and affiliated broker-dealer 1717 Capital Management Co.

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