If you look at the best-performing banks in the United States over the past few decades, they've all proven to be skilled dealmakers. PNC Financial (NYSE:PNC) is no exception, making three major acquisitions for pennies on the dollar over the past dozen years.

Listen in to the following segment of Industry Focus: Financials, as The Motley Fool's Gaby Lapera and contributor John Maxfield discuss PNC Financial's history of savvy acquisitions.

A full transcript follows the video.

This video was recorded on April 3, 2017.

Gaby Lapera: PNC Bank is like Thomas Jefferson, because literally all of its acquisitions are like the Louisiana Purchase. For our listeners who are not as familiar with history, I don't know how many of those there are, the Louisiana Purchase bought us a huge segment of the country that was originally owned by France, and we got it for super cheap. PNC does that all the time.

John Maxfield: Yeah, I love that comparison. You know what it shows? It's the United States really knows how to work with cycles. If you look at the Louisiana Purchase, they picked it up for pennies on the dollar because France was a distressed seller at the time because they were in the middle of a war with Great Britain. There's the same situation with Alaska. We picked it up for pennies on the dollar in a distressed sale from Russia, who needed to get money at the time. That's the exact same way, not only to grow a country -- although I think some people would question whether or not the people who are buying and selling things like the Louisiana Purchase actually had title to buy and sell the Louisiana Purchase, but that's neither here nor there -- the point being, in the bank industry, if you want to grow, the way to do it is be responsible, be prudent with your lending, then wait until troubled times, and then pick up the lenders who are not able to be responsible or prudent when the bubble is inflating. So you can get them for literally pennies on the dollar. And that's exactly what PNC has done. About a decade ago, it bought Riggs Bank after it ran into some problems, it bought National City during the financial crisis and it more than doubled in size. Just recently, over the past few years, it picked up about 400 branches in another acquisition.

Lapera: And these are also great purchases because, much like Alaska had oil, or the Louisiana Purchase had, really, a variety of resources and interesting things in it, the banks that PNC has been picking up have not been in terribly bad positions. It's not like Bank of America and Countrywide. They are much better, in general, in terms of credit quality, after.

Maxfield: Yeah, that's a great point. The big one to think about is that National City acquisition that happened during the financial crisis. That was actually forced on National City by the regulators. Not only that, but then PNC went and got billions of dollars worth of money from the TARP program that National City was denied and used that money to actually acquire National City. So it's an interesting subplot to all of that.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.