Bank-based advisors produced an average $27,418 in fees plus commissions in November, down 12% from October's $31,131, according to the Bank Insurance and Securities Association's (BISA) latest Monthly Productivity Report.

It was a fine performance nonetheless. October, along with April, July and January, benefits from a quarterly kick from fees, which can raise production levels 30% higher than in other months. Therefore, a 12% drop should actually be occasion for a slap on the back for bank reps, according to Scott Stathis, managing director of Kehrer-LIMRA, which supplies BISA's numbers.

Straight commissions stayed flat at $15,506, 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 says.

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 notes. Platform reps' production only topped $1,000 once in 2009, and that was in March when CDs bought with tax refunds typically mature.

"Platform reps were hesitant to sell investments at all in 2008 and 2009," Stathis explains. "But then consumers wanted interest rates to come back and they didn't, so platform reps started talking about other investments, such as life insurance and variable annuities." Banks whose platform reps sold those products saw their revenue shoot up significantly.

Stathis sees a brighter future for 2011. First, the spread is widening between fixed annuities and five-year CDs, and sales of other lynchpin products, such as variable annuities and mutual funds, should also pick up as the market continues its long recovery.

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