(Dow Jones) Janney Montgomery Scott has benefited from Wall Street's woes.

Its financial advisor headcount has remained near 900 in recent years, but the fees and commissions those brokers generate has increased as new, productive hires replace less productive incumbents, according to Jerry Lombard, president of the financial service firm's private client group.

"Our story is one about increasing the quality of our financial consultants over the last several years, rather than increasing simply the headcount," Lombard said.

Philadelphia-based Janney is a subsidiary of the Penn Mutual Life Insurance Co. Its private client group manages $52 billion for clients and accounts for 80% of Janney's revenue, Lombard said. Janney also has a capital markets group.

The private client group hired 145 financial advisors in 2008 and 2009, most of whom came from large Wall Street broker-dealers, Lombard said. Their average annual production was about $650,000, twice that of Janney's existing broker base.

Many of them were "regional firm refugees" whose employers had been acquired at some point by large institutions and who wanted to return to a smaller organization.

With this large pool of potential hires, Janney early last year raised its criteria for financial advisor recruits to $500,000 in annual fees and commissions and $60 million in assets under management. That's above the group's average production now, which is approaching $450,000 in fees and commissions, Lombard said.

The financial crisis thwarted plans Janney had announced in 2007 to raise broker production to $700,000 by 2011. It backed off that specific goal but plans to continue nudging broker production higher.

"The average production of any organization is a direct result of the quantity and quality of advice being delivered," Lombard said.

Financial advisors generating less than $200,000 annually in fees and commissions are in the so-called penalty box, receiving a low 20% payout. Janney recently raised that threshold from $150,000, where it had been for the last several years and expects gradually to move that minimum higher, Lombard said.

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