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Hi, this is Anand Chokkavelu, a senior editor here at The Motley Fool, and in today's "120," I want to tell you about the biggest opportunity in banks.
Now, you know, everyone's been talking about the big banks recently -- [Wells Fargo, Citigroup (NYSE: C ) ], Goldman Sachs (NYSE: GS ) , [JPMorgan Chase], Bank of America, what have you. But the real opportunity, I think, is in smaller banks. Why? Because big banks are really, really, really tough to really get a handle on. They've got a lot of things going on on their balance sheets.
Smaller banks? You can screen for them and then check them out -- and they've got simpler business models. I've found one that I really like, and I highlighted it to Foolish readers back in May of 2009. It's called Community Bank System (NYSE: CBU ) .
When I screen, I look for good price-to-tangible book values, I look for low bad loans, and I look for conservative provisioning on those bad loans -- basically saying, "Hey, we're going to make sure that we've taken the hit up front, and that way you don't get surprises down the road."
Community Bank System, when I first talked about it back in May, had all those characteristics. It had never taken TARP funds, and it seemed to be very conservatively managed. It's in upstate New York, avoiding the housing bubble, for the most part. And the more I learn about it, the better it is.
I bought back in July, and one of the first things I received was an 8.5-by-11-inch little postcard that tells you everything you want to know about the business for that quarter. It gives you a rundown of what's happened; it gives you the statistics that will help you make sure they're still running the business as you want it to be run.
The one problem with this bank is that since I started talking about it almost a year ago, it's run up 50% to 60% -- which is good for us shareholders but bad for someone trying to get in on it. I would recommend that you add it to your watchlist and keep track of Community Bank System -- ticker: CBU -- and, until next time, stay Foolish.