Bank-based advisors produced an average $27,418 in fees plus commissions in November, down 12% from October’s $31,131, but a fine performance nonetheless, according to the Bank Insurance and Securities Association’s (BISA) latest Monthly Productivity Report.
October, along with April, July and January, benefit from a quarterly kick from fee-based accounts. Scott Stathis, managing director of Kehrer-:LIMRA, which supplies BISA’s numbers, said that the difference between these months and regular months can be 30% higher as a result, so a 12% difference should actually be occasion for a slap on the back.
Straight commissions stayed flat at $15,506 on average, up fractionally from October’s $15,447. Commissions have hovered around $15,000, give or take a few hundred, since May 2010. “We don’t usually see it flat for so long, but that’s because of the interest rate environment,” Stathis said.
Platform reps’ performance was also relatively flat at $1,120 in November, up from $1,074 in October, but the fact that platform reps have kept their production above $1,000 for a year and a half is remarkable in itself, Stathis said. Platform reps’ production only topped $1,000 once in 2009, and that was in March when CDs bought with tax refunds typically mature making March a natural high point for the year.
“It’s down to a couple of factors,” Stathis explained. “Platform reps were as shell-shocked by volatility as their customers were, so they were hesitant to sell investment products at all in 2008 and 2009. But then consumers wanted interest rates to come back and they didn’t, so platform reps adapted and started talking about other investments, such as life insurance and variable annuities.” Banks that allowed their platform reps to sell those products saw their platform revenue shoot up significantly, Stathis says.
More good news is that Stathis sees a brighter future for 2011 for several reasons. First, fixed annuities, which tend to be a big driver in bank brokerage, are seeing the spread widen between them and five-year CDs. Annuities’ rates beat comparable CDs by three basis points in November, increasing to 23 basis points in December and 39 basis points in January. “March is tax season and that’s when CDs mature, so it should be a good month, Stathis said. Sales of other lynchpin investment products, variable annuities and mutual funds, should also pick up as the market continues its long recovery.