Travelers Companies (NYSE:TRV) and Ameris Bancorp (NASDAQ:ABCB) aren't stocks that you'll typically find in the headlines, but that doesn't mean you should ignore them. Both companies just reported impressive results, and there could be more good news in the quarters and years to come.
In this segment from Industry Focus: Financials, host Jason Moser gives investors a rundown of how these two companies are doing, and why they might belong on your watch list.
A full transcript follows the video.
This video was recorded on Oct. 22, 2018.
Jason Moser: Let's take a look here really quick at Travelers. Everybody knows the red umbrella. Travelers Insurance's earnings came out. I made the joke last week -- for listeners who don't know, I actually moved up here and took the job at The Fool in 2010. The job that I left was with Travelers Insurance. I worked with Travelers for a year. It was a good job, it offered me a lot of opportunity to move up in the company. I made the joke that when I left, the stock was somewhere around $50. Now it's around $125, it peaked around $150. The bottom line was, I felt like I left the company in really good shape. Of course, that was a joke, because I didn't have anything to do with anything.
I do think this is a very good business. I'm surprised it's always flown under the radar of our services here. The fact of the matter is, if you invested in Travelers a decade ago, and you held onto those shares, you would be extremely happy. I think that is because the company is very focused on making sure they do right by their customers. When I was there, their core philosophy was, "Pay what we owe, and let's move on." They tried to reduce and eliminate as many of those frictional costs as possible when it comes to insurance. One of the big ones is subrogation, when you have claims that are disputed, and they go further down the line to lawyers and insurance companies battling each other. To me, that's a one-two punch there that makes it pretty compelling from the investor's perspective.
Net premiums grew 6%. The combined ratio is still performing very well. This year the underlying combined ratio was 93%. We always like to see that low number, under 100. That means they're writing good business. To me, there were a lot of good reasons to be optimistic about Travelers. I think investors in Travelers today could feel comfortable holding those shares knowing this is a well-run business that should continue to perform well for some time to come.
Also, I'll give one more look here to a company I follow, Ameris Bancorp. Ameris is a small little bank in Moultrie, Georgia. It's actually a part of that small business big investments basket that I put out recently. It's just a $2 billion market cap. I found it back in 2011, right at the peak of the financial crisis. You were a small-cap bank in Georgia, that was basically ground zero. I don't think a lot of people gave them a chance to survive. But the FDIC found that this was a very well-run bank and decided to use them as a partner in helping them roll up some of those failed institutions. Really, it's been a total assets story. It's been a story about assets and about deposits. Ameris has continued to grow that asset base and that deposit base. And that deposit base is really top of mind for them in the coming years. The efficiency ratio continues to improve, 60% last year down to 54% this year. Another ratio we like to see on the lower side. They are still assessing the potential for some loan losses from Hurricane Michael, which did roll right through that part of the country. But all in all, still performing very well. I'm very encouraged with what Ameris is doing and what the future holds for them.