Planet13 - 9:30 am on Feb 4, 2012 (gmt 0)
Well, it is a little hard to say without seeing the sites.
As for the site that is ranking number 5 currently, there could be a couple of things; my first thought is that having links from blog comments and forum profiles:
The 90% links i had got were only from blog comments and 10% from profile links but took care that they were not looking spammy.
I think that those kinds of links just might not have as much value. It might be that your competitors have GREAT backlinks. It might be that the content on their site is just more well liked by google than your content. As martinibuster said, google rankings are more than just who has the most links.
As for the finance site, the way you describe it, it is either a major technical error or it is an over optimization penalty of one kind or another (either too many over optimized links, or just overly optimized text).