If you want to understand the secret sauce to great banking, you needn't look any further than Wells Fargo (WFC 0.23%), U.S. Bancorp (USB 0.34%), and M&T Bank (MTB 0.16%). They show us that the best banks not only generate reasonably high levels of profitability but that they do so even through tough times.
To hear more about this, listen in below to this clip from Industry Focus: Financials, The Motley Fool's weekly podcast focusing on a different industry each day.
A full transcript follows the video.
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This podcast was recorded on July 25, 2016.
Gaby Lapera: Wells Fargo was no slouch, either, despite it being the only one that didn't beat analyst expectations. Part of that is that Wells Fargo is such a consistent performer that I'm sure, or I'm guessing anyway, that analysts probably didn't lower their expectations as much for a Wells as they would say a Bank of America, but Wells Fargo was up $80 billion in loan growth year over year, which is pretty impressive.
John Maxfield: That's really impressive, and you actually bring up a really good point. When you're thinking about banks and bank stocks in particular, there's really two things that factor into the performance of investment over time. The first is just the size, just the magnitude of your profitability. How high is return on equity? How high is your return on assets? What also matters, in fact to an equal degree, is the consistency of your profit. You don't want a bank to have really, really high profitability, like 20% return on equities like Bank of America and Citigroup had in 2005, 2006, and then give all of that back in a crisis or more some, or more than that.
When you look at say Wells Fargo, U.S. Bancorp or banks like that, that have done really well over time, it is a function of both, and let me throw M&T Bank in there, too, a regional bank based out of Buffalo, New York, which is one of the best performing banks over the past three decades. What these banks have really nailed is not only a reasonably high return on equity, but also that consistency that you talked about with Wells Fargo.
Lapera: One day, I'm going to let you and Jay Jenkins just do a show on M&T Bank. It will be just an ode to M&T.
Maxfield: It could go on; I could talk about M&T for days, I'm a big fan of them. I know this is tangential because they're talking about earnings, but let's just talk about this now that we're here. M&T Bank is the Warren Buffett, it is the Berkshire Hathaway of banks. Since its current chairman and CEO took over in 1983, it's returned 18,000%, and that just blows not only most stocks out of the water but a lot of banks out of the water. It comes back to just growing responsibly, generating a responsible return on equity, and just not giving that back each time the cycles turns around.