Financial advisors at U.S. banks raked in an average of $27,809 in commission and fees in December, up modestly from an average of $27,418 in November thanks mainly to widening spreads between fixed annuities and certificate of deposit rates.

When combined with their comparatively strong production in October, bank-based advisors' in the fourth quarter generated the most revenue, including recurring sales, in more than 10 quarters, according to the Bank Insurance and Securities Association's latest Monthly Productivity Report.

For advisors and their banks, the December numbers suggest 2011 could be much more lucrative for brokers dealing in fixed and variable annuities.

"It's impressive that it's not lower because it's been such a poor sales environment really for the past three years," said Scott Stathis,  managing director of Kehrer-Limra. "How do you sell when fixed annuities and variable annuities -- two key, go-to products -- are so watered down and unattractive? Still, they were able to keep production at a decent level.

Production based purely on new sales rose to an average of $15,744 per broker in December, up from $15,506 in the prior month.

Among platform licensed brokers, however, average sales dipped from $1,120 to $1,041 in December.

"For most of 2010, platform reps kept their productivity about $1,000 which is actually great considering the market," Stathis said. "Life insurance is selling much better on the platform and several platforms are now letting them sell variable annuities which has helped pick up some of the slack."

Looking ahead, Stathis said the improving economy and equities market combined with widening spreads between CDs and fixed annuities bodes well for all brokers in the coming year.

"The spread is getting wider and wider each month," he said. "From what we're seeing, it's looking pretty rosy and we should have a decent recovery this year in rep productivity.

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