Once again I can't help but look at Wells Fargo (NYSE:WFC) in the context of a compare-and-contrast with U.S. Bancorp (NYSE:USB). Maybe that's because I've banked with both and they so often report earnings on the same day. When it's all said and done, I come away thinking that both are fine banks, but for different reasons: U.S. Bancorp is a dependable and hard-working mule that seldom disappoints (or excites), while Wells Fargo is a bit more of a racehorse with some elements of risk and pizzazz still in the mix.

Wells Fargo's results for this quarter also feed into that comparison. Revenue growth was 12% (higher than U.S. Bancorp's) and net income growth was 9% (also higher), but EPS growth was an identical 10%. And where U.S. Bancorp ratcheted up its already impressive return on assets, return on equity, and efficiency ratios, Wells Fargo didn't.

While total average earning assets grew 13% (with average loan growth of 2%), the net interest margin shrank a bit. Nevertheless, net interest income growth of 12% (after loan loss provisions) and a net interest margin of more than 4.7% are both exceptional in this rate environment. What's more, non-interest income was no slouch either, as it grew 14%.

Like U.S. Bancorp, I think Wells Fargo suffers a bit from some unfair characterizations. Yes, it's a large mortgage lender (the second-largest servicer behind Countrywide (NYSE:CFC)), but most of its lending is high-quality. What's more, I have a hard time believing that the government and the Great and Powerful Oz (that is, the Federal Reserve chairman) are really going to let large-scale mortgage defaults and foreclosures happen. Further, it has an underappreciated ace in the hole with the asset management business. Sure, it's not as big as Fidelity or T. Rowe Price (NASDAQ:TROW), but it's still one of the 20 largest mutual fund operators in the country.

I think Wells Fargo has the power to grow a little faster than its peers in the coming years, whether it engages in aggressive acquisitions (as some folks fear) or not. And when it comes to companies of this scale, "a little" can add up to a lot over time. I personally prefer other banks today (including some overseas) but I do think that anybody considering ideas like Wachovia (NYSE:WB) or Washington Mutual (NYSE:WM) should at least take a look at Wells Fargo in their due diligence.

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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).