Banks generated a total $1.54 billion in insurance brokerage fee income in the first quarter this year, up 2.2% from $1.51 billion in first quarter 2014, according to Michael White Associate's Bank Insurance Fee Income Report.

The number of banks on track to generate $1 million in insurance brokerage for the year, based on first quarter results, declined 16% to 149 from 178 in first quarter 2014.

But the "positive story" is that the number of banks that experienced double-digit increases (46) in brokerage income in the quarter exceeded last year's mark (33) by 39%, Michael White said in a press release.

Banks with more than $10 billion in assets had the highest participation in the insurance brokerage line of business at 79%. Combined, they produced $1.35 billion in income for the first quarter, up 4.2% from $1.3 billion year over year.

In that top group, BB&T, which owns more agencies than any other financial holding company, topped the list with insurance brokerage earnings of $404.6 million for the quarter.  Wells Fargo ranked second with $353.0 million; and Bank of America ranked third with $125 million.

For the banks with assets between $1 billion and $10 billion, insurance brokerage income stood at $191.4 million for the quarter, down 10% from $212.6 million in first quarter 2014.

Eastern Bank led the way in this group, followed by Stifel Financial and Lauritzen Corp.

All told, this business remains a compelling strategy for generating immediate and meaningful growth in bank fee income, Michael White said in a press release.

Results of the report are based on data from all 6,419 commercial banks, savings banks and savings associations and 576 large bank holding companies with consolidated assets greater than $1 billion.

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