To Insure and Protect

Thanks to its focus on customer relationships, Amarillo National Bank sells millions in credit insurance products every year

By Judith Sears

When I was a teenager, my family seemed to be in a very secure situation: we had a nice home and four cars,” recalls John Hunt, VP and manager of direct lending for Amarillo National Bank (ANB), in Amarillo, Texas. “But my dad, who didn’t believe in life or credit insurance, unexpectedly passed away. The four cars turned into two, and we had to sell the house and move into an apartment. No surprise that I’m a big believer in credit insurance.”

Hunt, who handles training for credit insurance products for the $3.8 billion-asset bank, isn’t the only believer at ANB. Every year, the bank sells $2.5 million worth of ICBA Reinsurance credit insurance products, making it one of the top-performing ICBA member banks in this category.

Significant benefits
ANB executives believe that credit life insurance, which pays off an installment loan in the case of the insured’s death, and credit disability insurance, which makes payments on an installment loan if the insured is temporarily disabled, can offer significant benefits to borrowers, including the protection of assets
and credit ratings.

Growth story—John T. McElyea and John Hunt give credit for ANB’s sales success to its focus on customers

“There are a lot of insurance statistics out there that say that most people are underinsured,” says John T. McElyea, senior vice president. “Credit insurance products can protect borrowers.” While insurance products benefit banks by reducing losses and generating fee income, McElyea emphasizes that ANB most values how credit insurance can help its borrowers. He says ANB’s staff encourages loan officers to focus on the customer relationship.

In fact, Hunt, McElyea and their colleagues believe ANB’s customer-focused culture is the real foundation for all of its sales, including credit insurance products. William Ware, executive vice president and fifth-generation member of ANB’s founding family, points out that the bank has just seven shareholders, making it easier to think long term. “When you don’t have the anxiety of quarterly earnings calls, you can focus on the next 15 years,” he says. “We’re here for the long haul and we focus on the customer.”

“Everything changes when you shift from a profitability focus to
a values-based focus.”
—William Ware,
Amarillo National Bank

This paves the way, Ware believes, for better relationships between loan officers and their customers. ANB loan officers often function as credit counselors whose customers return again and again. “When loan officers aren’t forced to sell products to make money, and they know they will have the customer for five to 10 years, it changes the relationship with the customer,” he explains.

Cross-selling opportunities
ANB’s focus on training only enhances these relationships. Lenders, lenders’ assistants and staff involved in closing loans all receive annual training on credit insurance and other bank offerings. “We have a very seasoned lending staff in all our branches, but we still train everybody every year,” McElyea says.

It has resulted in substantial interdepartmental referrals, because employees can use their deep product knowledge and good customer relationships to make appropriate recommendations. Ultimately, ANB executives think the bank’s strong credit insurance sales results are a function of its belief in the value of those products and its commitment to its customers.

“Everything changes when you shift from a profitability focus to a values-based focus,” Ware says. “The employees believe in what we’re doing for the customer and
for the future.”

Judith Sears is a writer in Colorado.