The news last Friday (2/3/12) that North Carolina-based BB&T (NYSE:BBT) would acquire Roseland, New Jersey based the Crump Group for $570 million signals a further heating of the already warm space of insurance distribution M&A. Already the nation's second largest bank-owned insurance broker, BB&T Insurance Services becomes the largest independent U.S. wholesale distributor of life insurance and a strong number two in wholesale P&C insurance after acquiring Crump.
Bank insurance has been something of a sleepy domain in the United States, which has never seen "successful" bancassurance behemoths like ING or Fortis (whoops!) take root. All of Sanford Weill's wiles could not keep the banking and insurance components CitiBank (NYSE:C) together. Even in the shadow of Dodd-Frank and the Durbin Amendment, as banks have struggled to replace revenue streams lost to regulation, there have not been major moves to bring banking and insurance under one roof, until today. Around the banking and insurance world, it was rumored that BB&T and Wells Fargo (NYSE:WF), the bank with the largest insurance brokerage, were working to increase their ability to cross-sell banking and insurance products through their reciprocally complementary channels, which was rational but not that dramatic. Today's news changes the game.
What's next? To compete, will Wells Fargo feel compelled to make a bid for another big life brokerage like National Financial Partners (NYSE:NFP), which rose today in line with the broader markets? Time will tell.
Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.