Life insurance seems to be the breakout product of 2010 on many levels for bank brokerage programs. Sales through the bank channel were up dramatically, and many program managers and TPMs were surprised by how much life insurance business they did this year.

In part the life insurance boom was sparked by low interest rates, which have made the sale of fixed annuities much harder. Many platform reps and financial advisors turned to insurance as a substitute for fixed annuities. But there are many more arguments for selling life insurance in the bank channel than just low annuity sales.

Surely life insurance is a harder sale than fixed annuities, requiring a longer approval process, potentially uncomfortable questioning and as always the miserable thought of one’s demise.

However, the product is market neutral; people need it regardless of whether securities are up or down, and more important, life insurance is a key part of even the most rudimentary financial plan and everyone can use some whether they are wealthy or not.

Life insurance, like financial planning often calls for a more thorough profiling process, which leads to more information about clients. Indeed, at a recent life insurance round table, Kehrer-LIMRA found that bank sales of life insurance improved dramatically when sold in a financial planning context. Banks that were better at financial planning sold 55% more policies than those that weren’t. In addition, banks that employed an internal wholesaler to specialize in insurance also raised the sales by 54%.

In addition to be being a record year in bank annuity sales, those struck me as impressive cross-overs worth thinking about in the year ahead.