Editor's note: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that Wells Fargo acquired Golden West Financial. In actuality, Wachovia has acquired Golden West Financial. We regret the error.

Wells Fargo (NYSE:WFC) has grown to become one of the most successful financial institutions in the U.S. Recent results suggest that its enviable track record of growth shows little sign of slowing.

Wells Fargo just reported another solid year. Our recent Fool by Numbers will walk you through the financial details, but in a nutshell, the company once again posted solid numbers across the board. Core consumer banking net income grew only 1% for the year, but accelerated in the fourth quarter. Wholesale banking and the financial segment posted 17% and 111% growth for the year, with the latter growing from an admittedly small base.

Management summed it up well in the earnings press release, noting that total company earnings growth has averaged 14% over the past 20 years, while revenue has expanded at a 12% annual clip over the same time frame. The pace has slowed somewhat over the past five years, as total revenue has grown only 9.5%, but earnings have slowed only slightly to 13.8% since 2000.

So how does a firm with a $122 billion market cap and $35.7 billion in annual revenue keep growing in the double digits? That's a good question, one that also plagues Wells Fargo's three larger peers: Citigroup (NYSE:C), Bank of America (NYSE:BAC), and JPMorgan Chase (NYSE:JPM). The concern is greatest for Citigroup and Bank of America, which rely primarily on acquisitions and have more uneven track records in generating organic, or internal, rates of growth. Plus, they're about twice as large as Wells Fargo, so the law of large numbers weighs on them the most.

JPMorgan has been playing catch-up, since it was a bit slow in integrating a giant merger of JPMorgan and Chase. Wachovia (NYSE:WB), the fifth player on the banking totem pole in terms
of net income and market cap, has also relied on buying market share and is in the process of digesting a large acquisition of Golden West Financial. Only Wells Fargo has a reputation for generating among the most visible and consistent organic growth in the industry, especially considering its size.

The company also is posting industry-leading and impressive return on equity and net interest margins, demonstrating an ability to profitably manage growth rather than have new business initiatives drag down bottom-line metrics, as occurs at Commerce Bancorp (NYSE:CBH). Fools can never be certain that the future will turn out as rosy as past results, but Wells Fargo's gumption over the past couple of decades illustrates that it can effectively compete and grow under nearly any economic condition or competitive circumstance. That's worth remembering.

For related Foolishness:

Bank of America and JPMorgan Chase are Income Investor recommendations. Discover more great dividend-paying stocks with a free 30-day trial.

Fool contributor Ryan Fuhrmann has no financial interest in any company mentioned. Feel free to email him with feedback or to discuss any companies mentioned further. The Fool has an ironclad disclosure policy.