Despite advisors’ bullish prognostications, average production in Januardy fell 11% to $14,930 from a month earlier.

“January ended up being a dud,” said Scott Stathis, a managing director and chief operating officer of Kehrer-LIMRA, the firm that supplies the data for the Bank Insurance and Securities Association’s Monthly Productivity Benchmark report.

For the first time, Kehrer-LIMRA is now including fee income as well. Sales production including the fourth quarter’s fees, which paid out in January, was $25,359, up 5% from December’s average.

This is positive news in an otherwise dismal month, but 5% isn’t much to write home about, Stathis said. Fee income helped increase October’s average production by 35%, to $32,407 from a month earlier.

If there is a bright spot, it’s in sales of life insurance, mostly single premium universal life, which boomed last year, Stathis said. First quarter sales of $190 million in the bank channel grew to $326 million in the second quarter, $359 million in the third and $380 million in the fourth quarter, setting a new record.

Life insurance definitely benefited from a drop in sales of the rate-challenged fixed annuities and of pricey, stripped-down variable annuities, Stathis said.

“Banks need another product in their portfolios, and life insurance can look a lot like a fixed annuity with its guarantee,” he said. “Life insurance is becoming the go-to product for the more ambitious reps.”