Who doesn't love a nice, fat dividend check deposited into your investment account every quarter? Those dividends can provide income in retirement, boost your overall returns in general, and, in many cases, give you market-beating performance for decades.
To help in your search for high-yielding dividend stocks, here are four bank stocks worth a closer look:
1. New York Community Bancorp
Leading off the list is New York Community Bancorp (NYSE:NYCB), a New York City-based lender with $48.6 billion on its balance sheet and a 6.1% dividend yield.
New York Community Bancorp makes its hay primarily by providing loans for apartment buildings in New York City. The business is incredibly stable and rarely causes the bank loan losses of any significance. That stability allows the bank to cut big dividend checks, funded by paying out an extremely high percentage of its profits.
That dividend strategy has worked great in the past, and it still works great today. However, many think the future may not be as bright.
Currently, New York Community Bancorp sits just below the important regulatory threshold of $50 billion in total assets. Once the bank passes that mark, it will be subject to a much more rigorous and costly regulatory burden. Management at the bank has repeatedly stated that to overcome that burden, the bank would like to make a major acquisition to leapfrog over the $50 billion mark.
That kind of an acquisition would almost certainly move the bank into new markets, new industries, and new kinds of risk. This management team has been incredibly successful at curtailing risk in the past, but it's unclear if that success can continue after a transformational merger.
When that merger happens, one of the first things that could be curtailed is that 90%+ dividend payout ratio. The dividend could still be attractive, but maybe not 6%+ attractive.
Bladex is short for the Banco Latinoamericano de Comerico Exterior, S.A. (NYSE:BLX), an $8 billion regional bank serving the trade finance needs of Latin American and Caribbean markets. The bank is headquartered in Panama City, Panama and provides loans, letters of credit, structured finance products, and treasury services to help companies in the region trade their wares around the world.
Oh, and the bank currently sports a 4.8% dividend yield. The bank's dividend is built on a solid financial foundation, highlighted by an efficient operation, exceptional capital levels, and strong returns.
For the full year 2014, Bladex reported an efficiency ratio of 32%. The efficiency ratio measures the relationship between a banks net revenue and its non-interest expenses. The lower the ratio the better, and Bladex's performance is about as low as it gets. According the the FDIC's most current Quarterly Banking Profile, the industry average in the U.S. was 61% as of the third quarter of last year, or nearly double the figure posted by Bladex.
The efficiency allows the bank to operate with a tier one capital ratio north of 15% and still produce a return on average equity at 12%.
3. Bank of California
The Bank of California (NYSE:BANC) is a regional bank based in Irvine, California that currently sports a 4.3% dividend yield. Unfortunately though, the $5.95 billion regional bank's strong dividend is not the sign of strength it could be.
A dividend yield is a metric that includes both a business' actual dividend paid and the current price of the stock. Dividend yield is, therefore, relative. And in this case, the 4.3% yield is more a function of the bank's cheap price and poor performance.
Bank of California currently trades at just 0.85 times book value, meaning the market does not believe the company's current valuation of the assets on its books. For a bank with 10 times leverage, that's not good.
Per the bank's December 31, 2014 filing with the FDIC, the bank has reported at least one quarterly loss in each of the past three years. Return on equity, as a result, was just 5.2% for the 2014 full year. Return on assets were just 0.51%.
Dividend investors should proceed with caution.
4. Bank of Montreal
Since January 1, 1995, the Bank of Montreal (NYSE:BMO) has increased its quarterly dividend 422.6%. That increase has moved largely in lock-step with the bank's share price, as the dividend yield remains just north of 4.2%, which is within one percentage point from it's yield in 1995.
For long-term investors, consistency like this is a beautiful thing. The bank was founded in 1817 and currently operates approximately 1,550 branches in the U.S. and Canada.
The bank's business model is traditional, conservative, and flat-out works. In the company's latest fiscal quarter, net income was $1 billion, tier one capital was a strong 10.1%, and book value increased 10% in that quarter alone. Return on average equity was 12.3%.