The best financial stock right now, according to a consensus of more than 26,000 investors participating in Motley Fool CAPS, isn't JPMorgan Chase or Citigroup, but rather a small-cap peddler of workers' comp policies that pulls down operating margins less than half of what the big boys rake in. Believe me, I was as surprised to write that as you were to read it.

Louisiana-based Amerisafe (NASDAQ:AMSF) makes a living by helping America's employees feel safe making their own. The firm generates more than $300 million a year in revenue, marketing and underwriting workers' comp insurance for small and midsized employers engaged in hazardous industries. As financial services businesses go, the firm isn't nearly as profitable as the big boys, but within the subsector of accident and health insurers, it's actually (actuarially?) more profitable than the average insurer.

What's insurance have to do with banking, you ask? Good question. Within CAPS, we don't adhere to the strict delineations of the SEC's Standard Industrial Classification Codes. Here, we let investors group companies however they think most appropriate. To illustrate, here is the actual top 10 list that Amerisafe, well, tops:


Claim to fame


Workers' comp

Manulife Financial (NYSE:MFC)

Life insurance

Tower Group (NASDAQ:TWGP)

Property and casualty (P&C) insurance

Brookfield Asset Management (NYSE:BAM)

Asset management



Alleghany (NYSE:Y)


Meadowbrook Insurance




Jones Lang LaSalle (NYSE:JLL)

Real estate and investment management

Philadelphia Consolidated


Dollar figures in millions. Data provided by Capital IQ, a division of Standard & Poor's.  

Needless to say, none of the companies on this list should be considered formal recommendations. That said, our community clearly thinks these companies are worthy of further research.

Common ground
Two things jump out at me from today's list. The first you already know: Investors look at the insurance industry and say -- to quote stock-market guru Paris Hilton -- "That's hot."

The second is a subset of the first. Within the incredibly sexy world of insurance, property and casualty insurance seems the fairest subsector of them all.

Foolish final word
Is that news to you? It isn't to the good folks at Motley Fool Stock Advisor, where each of our co-lead analysts has had a favorite P&C insurer included in his portfolio for months now. Click through this link to see who we like in this super-sexy subsector.

And once you've checked out our own favorite recommendations, come on over to Motley Fool CAPS and tell us how you think they stack up against the companies named above. Make a good enough case, and maybe your own favorite will top the next Top 10 list.

Make seven picks on CAPS by April 24 and we'll send you a free copy of The Motley Fool Five Star Report. And check out our new stock videos at CAPS.

Fool contributor Rich Smith does not own shares of any company named above. You can find him on CAPS, publicly pontificating under the handle TMFDitty, where he's ranked 216th out of more than 26,000 raters. JPMorgan Chase is an Income Investor recommendation. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.