I can't tell you that it was fun to work for a business owned by consummate penny-pincher U.S. Bancorp (NYSE:USB), but I have to give them their due. If there's a way to make money from fees, they'll find it. If there's a cost that they can eliminate without harming the bank's long-term ability to grow, they'll get rid of it. Maybe that strikes you as miserly or Scrooge-like, but it's savvy practice in large-scale banking, where tiny fractions of percents can add up to tens of millions of dollars in lost profits.

With that in mind, I'd say that U.S. Bancorp -- a Motley Fool Income Investor recommendation -- posted a good news/bad news sort of quarter. The good news was that cost-obsession remained the order of the day, and non-interest-based fee income (from services like merchant and ATM processing) continued to grow at a healthy clip. The bad news is that the basic underlying banking business wasn't so strong -- net interest income was down, and loan and deposit growth were weak.

In a roundabout sense, maybe the low deposit growth is actually another positive manifestation of the bank's cost-cutting philosophy. After all, it could be argued that U.S. Bancorp is losing out on deposit growth because it doesn't want to overpay for those deposits. Then again, that doesn't really sync with the considerable growth in more expensive brokered deposits seen this quarter.

In this Fool's view, U.S. Bancorp is increasingly becoming a hybrid company. Sure, it has banking operations like fellow Income Investor pick Bank of America (NYSE:BAC), Wells Fargo (NYSE:WFC), and Wachovia (NYSE:WB) do, but it also has that large processing business that's more akin to Motley Fool Inside Value pick First Data (NYSE:FDC) or Global Payments (NYSE:GPN). In fact, if I'm adding the numbers correctly, U.S. Bancorp is bigger than Global Payments in that business, and roughly the same size as Total System Services (NYSE:TSS).

I can't tell you that U.S. Bancorp stock is so shockingly cheap that it's a must-buy. By the same token, though, I do believe that it's trading below fair value, and it continues to put up some of the best return-on-capital metrics in the industry. So long as you're not looking to get rich quickly, U.S. Bancorp remains a worthy candidate for Fools seeking exposure to financial services.

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Fool contributor Stephen Simpson has no financial interest in any stocks mentioned (that means he's neither long nor short the shares).