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The First Quarter's 10 Best Bank Stocks

With the first quarter of 2013 officially over, it's time to take a look back at the best performing bank stocks over the three-month time period.

As you can see in the table below, the list was led by little known First Financial Holdings (UNKNOWN: FFCH.DL  ) . First Financial primarily operates as the holding company for First Federal Bank, a regional lender with 66 branches located throughout North and South Carolina.

Over the past two years, the holding company has been shedding assets at a considerable clip. In May of 2011, it disposed of its insurance agency subsidiary, First Southeast Insurance Services. Four months later, it completed the sale of its managing general insurance subsidiary, Kimbrell Insurance Group. And one month after that, it sold roughly $200 million in loans to a private investment group. If its performance in the first quarter of this year is any indication, this simplification has struck a chord with investors, as its shares were up more than 60%.


First-Quarter Performance

Market Cap ($ millions)

First Financial Holdings



Virginia Commerce Bancorp



Bank of the Ozarks



Western Alliance Bancorp



Bank Mutual Corp.



Glacier Bancorp



BofI Holding



SVB Financial Group



The Bancorp



SCBT Financial



Source: Only banks with a market capitalization over $200 million were included in the analysis.

Another notable mention here is Bank of the Internet (NASDAQ: BOFI  ) , a "nationwide branchless bank" that provides deposit and loan services to its customers principally over the Internet. As its website proclaims, "Because we do not incur the significantly higher fixed operating costs inherent in a branch-based distribution system, we are able to provide a better value to our customers. This means our interest rates on deposit products are generally among the highest available and our loan products feature low rates and fees."

Using this model, BOFI has been able to nearly triple its asset base over the last five years. And it's seemingly been able to do so without compromising on the quality of service. Two weeks ago, for example, it was named the 2012 top service provider by Costco Mortgage Services, a division of the membership retailing giant. According to Costco's director of mortgage services: "We hold our service providers to the high standards that Costco members expect to receive from Costco services programs. We are pleased to award the honor of Top Service Provider to Bank of Internet for providing service above and beyond our already high standards."

And finally, SVB Financial (NASDAQ: SIVB  ) continues its impressive ascent, ending the quarter up by 27%. Short for Silicon Valley Bank, SVB counts among its clients some of the nation's most innovative companies and, according to Forbes magazine, it "played an important role in the early days of companies including Cisco Systems, Electronic Arts, and Intuit." Leveraging this model over the past five years has allowed the technology-focused lender to more than triple in size, going from $6.7 billion assets in 2007 to $22.8 billion today.

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