BB&T To Buy Crump Units for $570 Million to Expand Life Insurance Sales

BB&T Corp. (BBT), the ninth-largest U.S. bank by deposits, agreed to buy insurance units of Crump Group Inc. for $570 million to expand distribution of life coverage.

The deal would make BB&T the nation’s largest independent wholesale life insurance distributor and add $300 million in annual revenue, the Winston-Salem, North Carolina-based lender said today in a statement. The agreement covers property- casualty and life operations and includes rights to the Crump name, according to closely held Crump. The sale is scheduled for completion this quarter, BB&T said.

Chief Executive Officer Kelly King has been bolstering BB&T’s insurance brokerage to add revenue that doesn’t involve lending. The bank struck deals last year for Liberty Benefit Insurance Services and Atlantic Risk Management Corp. to expand in California and the Baltimore area.

The Crump units are “a great strategic fit for BB&T, immediately increasing and diversifying our fee income while driving stronger revenues,” King, 63, said in the statement. BB&T jumped 3.3 percent to $28.94 at 11:04 a.m. in New York.

Crump is an insurance distributor and record-keeper for company retirement plans based in Roseland, New Jersey, according to a separate statement. The firm will keep its Ascensus retirement-services business. The New York-based private equity firm J.C. Flowers & Co. is a large stakeholder, said Sherri K. Lindenberg, a Crump spokeswoman.

Looking for Targets

Banks including Wells Fargo & Co. rely on insurance brokerage arms to solidify relations with clients and generate fee revenue, and to help offset income lost to new financial rules such as U.S. caps on debit-card transaction fees. BB&T’s insurance income increased 2 percent to $254 million in the fourth quarter.

“We know BB&T is on the prowl,” said Paul Miller, an FBR Capital Markets analyst with a “market perform” rating on the shares. “They generate a lot of capital internally, and they’re going to be restricted in how much in buybacks and dividends they can return to the public.” Federal regulators are reviewing capital plans submitted by the biggest lenders with an eye on strengthening the banking system and may curtail some requests for share repurchases or higher dividends.

King said he would look for small acquisitions in property- casualty, benefits and life insurance during a conference call last month.

“We think our insurance acquisition activity will be what I’d call kind of normal for BB&T, which is a number of acquisitions during the course of the year,” he said.

BB&T agreed in November to buy BankAtlantic Bancorp’s retail-lending unit, adding about $2.1 billion in loans and $3.3 billion in deposits. The acquisition will help BB&T expand in Florida by adding 78 branches and boosting its share of the Miami market.

To contact the reporters on this story: Noah Buhayar in New York at nbuhayar@bloomberg.net; Patrick Clark in New York at pclark48@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: David Scheer at dscheer@bloomberg.net

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