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 annuity and certificate of deposit rates.

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

The December numbers suggest 2011 may be much more lucrative for brokers selling 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," says 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 at about $1,000, which is actually great considering the market," says Stathis. "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."

Stathis adds that the improving economy and stock market combined with widening spreads between CDs and fixed annuities bode well for all brokers.

"The spread is getting wider each month," he says. "It's looking pretty rosy and we should have a decent recovery this year in rep productivity.

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