The Motley Fool's readers have spoken, and I have heeded your cries. After months of pointing out CEO gaffes and faux pas, I've decided to make it a weekly tradition to also point out corporate leaders who are putting the interests of shareholders and the public first and are generally deserving of praise from investors. For reference, here is last week's selection.
This week, I want to take a closer look at US Bancorp (NYSE: USB ) CEO Richard Davis and show you why it's not what he's done, but what he hasn't done that makes him a truly incredible leader.
Kudos to you, Mr. Davis
No fancy smoke-and-mirrors intro this time; just the simple fact that in the second-quarter, US Bancorp was one of only three of the 24 banks in the KBW Index to grow their earnings while also producing the best risk-adjusted return of the 24 banks over the past two years.
For the second quarter, Davis' US Bancorp reported revenue growth of 8.1% driven by a 6.6% jump in net-interest income and a 9.7% increase in noninterest income. Net income at the company's mortgage banking segment rose 105%, while consumer and small-banking income exactly doubled. In addition, total loan growth was up by 7.7% as the amount set aside for bad loans dropped $102 million to just $470 million.
You might be overwhelmed by these exceptional results from a U.S. bank, but this is business as usual for US Bancorp, which has demonstrated year-over-year growth in every quarter since the fourth quarter of 2009. Now let's compare this with the sea of problems US Bancorp's peers have faced since 2009.
Bank of America (NYSE: BAC ) has dealt with asset sales to improve liquidity and is still coping with the poor loan quality of its Countrywide Financial purchase. Citigroup (NYSE: C ) has dealt with its fair share of toxic loans and has been implicated in the LIBOR-fixing scandal. Even JPMorgan Chase (NYSE: JPM ) finds its way onto the naughty column for losing up to $5.7 billion in derivative-related hedging losses. Far and wide, US Bancorp is kicking its peers' behinds!
A step above his peers
Here comes my favorite part about US Bancorp: the realization of why it's outperforming its peers. The amazing answer is that it's focused on traditionally boring banking activities like taking in deposits, making loans, and handling trusts.
My heart be still -- a bank that actually handles banking activities!
Sarcasm aside, this is a formula that has proved successful for decades, yet banking giants like Bank of America, Citigroup, and JPMorgan Chase seem to need a constant reminder that it works. With absolutely no interest in getting into derivative trades or investment banking, Davis is perfectly comfortable sitting back and allowing his noninterest asset management and interchange fees from credit and debit cards to drive growth.
Furthermore, not only is US Bancorp avoiding spread-driven growth -- which requires a lot of investment capital that it can potentially lose -- but it's also focusing on acquiring small savings-and-loan banks to expand its presence within the United States. This pattern of thinking small has allowed it to maintain a relatively close-knit appeal in most communities and, when combined with its top-tier reputation, has kept it from losing customers in the transition process of acquiring a bank and its branches.
In Davis' own words when asked in April whether he would offer a greater variety of banking instruments:
We only do what we understand and that we can control. We have got all the (features) we wanted to in the last few years by building out our wholesale bank and capital markets. Nothing left we covet. There is nothing we don't have that we want.
Two thumbs up
It's so simple that it's almost mind-numbingly dumb, but sticking to the basics of banking, especially with regard to instruments that are well understood, is a time-tested formula for success for banks.
Davis gets two thumbs up this week -- again, not for what he has done so much as for what he hasn't done. He hasn't allowed his bank to be lured into the temptations of trading or into the perils of investment banking, which wiped out Lehman Brothers and Bear Stearns and threatened Morgan Stanley (NYSE: MS ) -- which borrowed $107.3 billion from the Federal Reserve at the height of the credit crisis -- and Goldman Sachs. What Davis has done is stick to what he knows, no matter how boring that may be, resulting in a dividend-adjusted 48.5% return over the trailing 12-month period.
A bank that actually cares about its shareholders and how it uses its own money? What is this, The Twilight Zone? That's two emphatic thumbs up for you, Mr. Davis!
Do you have a CEO you'd like to nominate for this prestigious weekly honor? If so, then head on over to the new CEO of the Week board and chime in with your fellow Fools on who is deserving of this weekly honor. If you don't have a nominee as of yet, don't worry; you can still weigh in on other members' selections.
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