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While it isn't the largest bank in the country based on the assets on its balance sheet -- that title belongs to JPMorgan Chase (NYSE:JPM) -- Wells Fargo (NYSE:WFC) is the biggest when it comes to what investors think it is worth.
But it turns out that it isn't just investors who think it's valuable, but its employees, customers, and many more. And there are a number of fascinating reasons why this is the case.
While the banking industry has been full of turmoil over the last few years, there is no denying Wells Fargo has managed to navigate through these trials in incredibly agile way.
Thanks to its aversion to the risky loans which crippled the banking industry during the financial crisis, Wells Fargo has emerged relatively unscathed. And as you can see in the chart above, it has seen remarkable growth in its income over the last decade.
It isn't just its past which has been impressive, but its recent performance as well. As shown in the chart below, relative to its fellow big bank peers of JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America (NYSE:BAC), and Citigroup (NYSE:C), Wells Fargo has continued its remarkably strong results through the first half of 2014:
Knowing is it the most profitable and the most efficient -- the lower the efficiency ratio, the better -- it's no wonder investors demand a premium for it through its high price-to-tangible book multiple (abbreviated as P/TBV in the table).
Yet it's critical to see this isn't just a new trend at Wells Fargo, but has been true of it for many years. As fellow Fool John Maxfield noted in a recent article:
Since 1990, U.S. Bancorp has yielded a total return of 4,140%. Wells Fargo produced a return of 3,880%. And M&T Bank came in third at 3,010%. All three of these not only smashed the broader market, but they also outperformed their most notable shareholder: Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway.
And while Wells Fargo may be topping the returns delivered by Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE:BRK-A)(NYSE:BRK-B), Buffett's $12 billion investment in Wells Fargo was at last count worth $25.4 billion, so he likely isn't losing any sleep over it.
Undeniably the investors in Wells Fargo are happy, but the case is a touch different with the customers of Wells Fargo. As shown in the chart below, according to the latest results from the J.D. Power, while its customers aren't distinctly unhappy, Wells Fargo isn't exactly crushing the average bank:
And interestingly enough the average score across the 11 regions for Wells Fargo stood at 785, which was identical to the total satisfaction that individuals have with retail banks in the United States.
All of this is to say, while it isn't exactly among the best at satisfying customers, it certainly isn't among the worst either.
However, knowing that the company itself has stated that its vision is "to satisfy all our customers' financial needs and help them succeed financially," one has to think its customer satisfaction rankings should only continue to improve.
While Wells Fargo has delivered strong returns to investors and its customers are satisfied, according to the thousands of reviews from Glassdoor, Wells Fargo does have some room for improvement when it comes to how its employees feel about it.
Shown against its peers, its overall ratings, particularly when you consider the recommendation rating, aren't as high as one might think:
But it does offer strong employee benefits, including a sizable dollar for dollar match for employees contributing up to 6% in their 401(k), as well as things like tuition and adoption reimbursements for employees, savings on products and services the bank offers, and even scholarships for the children of its employees.
And like its customers, the company provides a sense of understanding how valuable its employees are, as CEO John Stumpf himself notes:
Our most important value is this: we believe in people as a competitive advantage. We strive to find the best people from a diversity of backgrounds and cultures, give them the knowledge and training they need, allow them to be responsible and accountable for their businesses, and recognize them for outstanding performance.
The larger world
Finally -- and perhaps most importantly -- there is the assessment of how Wells Fargo has fared in a broader context in the world. And here, also, it earns high marks.
For the fifth year in a row, in 2013 Wells Fargo had the No. 1 giving campaign among workplaces in the U.S., according to the United Way, and in total it invested more than $275 million across 18,500 nonprofits in the nation.
It also provided nearly $6 billion worth of community development loans and investments in various projects "that support affordable housing, community services, economic development, and revitalization and stabilization."
But it doesn't just stop at the dollars, as its employees contributed 1.7 million hours to volunteer efforts.
Clearly both the bank and its employees are committed to ensuring the benefits provided extend beyond just those closely tied to the company itself.
The final thought
Undoubtedly the biggest banks dealt with their fair share of trouble before, during, and after the Great Recession. But Wells Fargo has clearly put the few problems it had faced behind it, and looks poised to continue its impressive run for years to come.
Patrick Morris owns shares of Bank of America, Berkshire Hathaway, and U.S. Bancorp. The Motley Fool recommends Bank of America, Berkshire Hathaway, and Wells Fargo. The Motley Fool owns shares of Bank of America, Berkshire Hathaway, Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, and Wells Fargo. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.