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U.S. Bancorp’s Unique Approach to Balancing Its Stakeholders

By Motley Fool Staff - Apr 8, 2017 at 9:23PM

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The Minneapolis-based bank has prioritized its relationship with the ratings agencies above all others.

U.S. Bancorp (USB 1.24%) has found a formula that clearly works. While most banks struggled to survive the past decade, U.S. Bancorp's strength through the financial crisis has allowed it to consolidate its position atop the industry. How did it do so? A critical part of the answer has to do with how the bank prioritizes its stakeholders.

Listen to the following segment of Industry Focus: Financials as The Motley Fool's Gaby Lapera and John Maxfield discuss why the Minneapolis-based bank considers the ratings agencies to be its most important constituency and the benefits that have flowed from this focus.

A full transcript follows the video.

This video was recorded on March 27, 2017.

Gaby Lapera: One of the things that Richard Davis talked about in your interview is that there are a lot of different constituencies. In fact, he says, "Our main constituents are our customers, shareholders, employees, analysts, and the ratings agencies." It's really interesting, because he says that the most important of those constituents are the rating agencies.

John Maxfield: Right. So, you have each of these constituents. So, think the CEO of such a big bank, and he's also the chairman, so there is no one above him at the bank, per se. But that doesn't mean he doesn't have constituencies that he has the answer to. The complication with those constituencies is, some of them have different objectives than other of the constituencies. So the question is: How do you balance those? And let me give you a very precise example, the analyst community. These are people, men and women who look at companies, look at their fundamental performance, look at the valuation of their stock, and try to determine and give advice to other investors on whether these companies are buy, hold, or sell. Everybody knows what analysts are. But the problem with analysts is, they are focused on what's happening right now.

Lapera: Yeah, in the short term.

Maxfield: Right. And quite frankly, you could expand that a little bit more and say that they're actually interested in what happened last quarter. Because they're outsiders, they don't have access to inside data. So, the only data they get is data that is historical. So, when U.S. Bancorp reports its quarterly reports or annual report, that's when the analysts actually get to see the data. But the ratings agencies, they're more interested in long-term stability. They're trying to say, "This is a company that bondholders can buy and not have to worry about them defaulting on their debt." And the other thing with ratings agencies that's really critical to understand about ratings agencies, both for banks and investing in any type of company is, these are insiders. A point that Richard Davis made to me on the phone was, he can basically show a person from a ratings agency anything that he would show Andy Cecere, who is going to take over as CEO in April at the meeting. So, the rating agencies, not only do they have the same long-term perspective that U.S. Bancorp does, and conservative philosophy toward banking in order to be safe and sound, but they also have the best data about U.S. Bancorp's not only current performance -- and I mean, like, today's performance -- but also its projections for revenue over the next 90 days.

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