State Farm to Support Banking Business With Dedicated Reps

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State Farm Insurance will hire representatives dedicated exclusively to handling banking-related questions when the insurance giant begins offering banking services this spring.

The Bloomington, IL-based company will publish a new toll-free number to serve the banking business, but plans to leverage its existing call center infrastructure to support the new business venture, said company spokesman Dick Luedke. The banking line will initially be staffed by dedicated agents daily from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. For customers who call after those hours, other representatives will take messages, and banking telephone representatives will respond to the phone calls during the day or evening. The company plans to eventually staff its banking line with representatives dedicated to banking issues 24 hours a day, but it will decide when to move to 24-hour support after banking services are launched.

State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co., the parent company of the State Farm group, received approval to open a federal savings bank from the Office of Thrift Supervision, the federal agency that regulates federal savings banks, on Nov. 18. The bank, formally chartered as State Farm Financial Services, FSB, will be commonly known as the State Farm Bank. Its focus will be on consumer-oriented financial products complementing State Farm's insurance focus.

The bank will begin operations this spring near its home base in Bloomington-Normal, IL, and in the St. Louis area. Its service area will expand throughout Missouri and Illinois within two years. In its third year, the bank plans to move into Arizona.

Rather than have branches, the company's 16,000 U.S. agents will assist customers in connecting with the bank and receiving banking services through other communications avenues such as the phone and mail.

The company would not provide details about how may representatives will be dedicated to banking, what training they will receive or what software they will use, but would only say that it plans to offer the same level of service to its banking customers as it has traditionally offered insurance customers.

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