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1/31/2005
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Citigroup Sells Travelers Unit To MetLife For $11.5 Billion

Move may signal the end of the "financial supermarket" that provides banking, insurance, and investment services.

Citigroup Inc. disclosed the sale Monday of the life and annuity division of its Travelers insurance business, along with most of its international insurance business, to MetLife Inc. for $11.5 billion.

The deal completes the jettisoning of the Travelers business, which Citigroup acquired almost seven years ago. In 2002, Citigroup spun off the property and casualty division of Travelers; that division later merged with St. Paul Cos.

It also represents the symbolic end of the era of the financial supermarket, through which financial-services products, including banking, insurance, and investments, could be peddled by a single large institution and delivered through multiple channels such as branches, over the phone, and on the Web.

The acquisition of Travelers Group in 1998 epitomized the financial-supermarket concept. Indeed, by the end of that year, the Travelers division had sold some 3,000 auto and homeowners' insurance policies through the call centers that service Citibank's credit-card business.

Many observers questioned whether Citigroup could execute on one of the prerequisites of a financial supermarket: providing a single view of customer information out of systems spanning multiple product lines, geographic regions, and distribution channels. Many banks have had difficulty providing that view for products as similar as checking, savings, and mortgages--let alone insurance and investments.

In a report issued last week, Isabella Fonseca, an analyst at Celent Communications, wrote that banks are seeking solutions to address "the lack of integration among channels and data within the bank's internal system infrastructure," which is making it difficult to achieve a single-customer view.

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