As an investor, it doesn't pay to follow the crowd.

In this series, though, we highlight a possible exception -- the collective wisdom of our CAPS community. Read the next section if you're unfamiliar with our methodology. Skip it if you want to go straight to the results.

Why this crowd is different
Jumping into a stock because your rich neighbor did, or because you heard about it from your friend's uncle who used to work on Wall Street, or because CNBC has been talking about it nonstop is a recipe for disaster.

If there's one thing I've learned as a stock analyst, it's that any stock can be gussied up to sound like a world-beater. If there's a second thing I've learned, it's that being a smart person doesn't make you a good investor.

In the hands of a smart person with good communication skills, the never-were and never-will-be stocks sound like tickets to instant fortune. The ancient Greek philosophers made the distinction between rhetoric and knowledge. The former is convincing; the latter is true.

That's why we factor in track record in our Motley Fool CAPS community. We invite everyone to give stocks an outperform (akin to a "buy" call) or underperform rating (akin to a "sell" call) in CAPS. We then use those opinions to calculate a rating for each stock -- from one to five stars (five being the best). But -- and this is a big distinction -- we give more weight to the opinions of folks whose picks have performed well in the past.

The top 7 financial services high yielders
So, with that methodology as prelude, I present to you the seven four- and five-star-rated financial services stocks that yield 3% or more that have garnered the most outperform ratings by CAPS members. I used a minimum market capitalization of $100 million and the proviso that it must be listed on a major U.S. exchange. Remember, stocks are rated on a five-star scale by our CAPS community, so four- and five-star stocks are consensus outperforms.

Company

 Market Capitalization (in millions)

P/E Ratio

Dividend Yield

CAPS Rating (out of 5)

Outperform Picks

NYSE Euronext (NYSE: NYX)

$7,240

11.9

4.3%

*****

    2,381

Apollo Investment (Nasdaq: AINV)

$1,857

15.7

11.7%

*****

    1,127

MVC Capital (NYSE: MVC)

$312

8.4

3.7%

*****

     909

Prospect Capital (Nasdaq: PSEC)

$695

NM

13.2%

****

     561

AllianceBernstein (NYSE: AB)

$2,415

11.4

5.2%

*****

     483

Advance America (NYSE: AEA)

$208

4.1

7.5%

****

     376

Ares Capital (Nasdaq: ARCC)

$2,869

4.1

9.4%

****

     333

Source: Motley Fool CAPS. NM =  not meaningful.

Note that this list excludes banks. For that list, click here.

Rule Breakers pick NYSE Euronext (listed on the NYSE, of course) heads up this eclectic list of financial companies. There are certainly some numbers that stick out -- a couple extra-low P/Es and a couple extra-high dividend yields. All are CAPS community favorites, but all require the normal dose of due diligence -- perhaps extra, because some financial balance sheets can be extra complex.

Which is your favorite? Make your thoughts known in CAPS by clicking here. Or just go there to do further research on one of these stocks.