Optimism reigns in the bank brokerage world, according to the first annual Kehrer-Limra 2011 Predictions Survey. Not only are the 106 executives from 65 responding banks—which range in size from tiny credit unions to Wells and JPMorgan—bullish on hiring, but they report that sales are shifting toward newer hybrid products, and institutions are more optimistic about succeeding at an integrated approach across brokerage, trust and private banking.

"While hiring means executives feel positive about the opportunity in 2011 and want to be staffed to meet it, two of those three findings are potential game changers," says Scott Stathis, managing director of Kehrer-Limra. "The evolution of products and the integration of trust, private banking and investments are going to enhance banks' ability to increase wallet share."

Some 75% of participants expected to increase their ranks of financial consultants by more than 5%; and nearly one-fifth was looking forward to increasing advisor ranks by more than 10%.

Participants are also looking to hire more platform reps this year. About half anticipate adding at least 5% more reps to their platform. And as with advisors, 20% of institutions forecast growing platform ranks by more than 10%.

Products with the most growth potential in 2011, according to those surveyed, included managed money, variable annuities, mutual funds and life insurance (see chart). Four in five respondents believe that these products will grow by at least 5%.

However, participants were the most bullish on managed money and life insurance. Slightly more than half indicated that managed money sales would be up at least 10%, and 45% foresee life insurance sales rising by the same amount.

As for new products, long-term-care/annuity combinations and market-linked CDs were potential breakout products.

Indexed annuities and exchange-traded funds (ETFs) are hot products in the broader financial services landscape, but participating bankers are mixed on whether the products will be as successful in the world of bank brokerage.

Perhaps a more exciting statistic is that almost nine in 10 respondents predicted that enhancing relationships between the investment program, personal banking and trust will be critical to growth in the coming years. And eight in 10 participants said financial planning should become more prevalent this year.

"An integrated, yet stratified wealth management strategy is going to be the key to cross-selling success and profitability as bank investment programs evolve over the coming years" says Jen Parmelee Witt, associate research director at Kehrer-Limra.