There are a lot of reasons to like Wells Fargo & Co.'s (NYSE:WFC) stock. The bank is efficient, highly profitable, and manages risk better than just about anyone. In the second quarter, the bank lived up to its reputation, reporting strong results across its businesses. To me, three developments stand out as particularly important.
The core loan portfolio looks great
Core loans increased 9% in the second quarter compared to the 2014 second quarter, and 4% compared to the 2015 first quarter. That growth was led by a $22.8 billion increase in commercial loans at the bank. Commercial and industrial loans have increased over $36.6 billion from the second quarter of 2014.
For context, that $36.6 billion increase is larger than the total assets of 99.33% of all U.S. banks.
That's fantastic growth, and more impressive still, the bank was able to do it without sacrificing yield. Over the past few quarters, the bank has seen its yields for the core portfolio decline from around 4.28% to 4.19% as of March 31, 2015. That trend stabilized in the second quarter, when the portfolio yielded 4.20%.
Until the Federal Reserve increases its benchmark interest rates, yield will remain a challenging objective for all banks. With competition for deals increasing as the economy improves, many banks are sacrificing yield to try and win business. It's pretty impressive that Wells was able to successfully find this level of loan growth in this rate and competitive environment without dropping its pricing.
Wells continues to execute in mortgage lending
In the second quarter, Wells' mortgage unit crushed it. Mortgage originations totaled $62 billion, up 27% quarter over quarter, and 32% year over year. That volume should continue in the third quarter; the bank's pipeline for mortgage applications totaled $38 billion at June 30th.
Wells Fargo prides itself on its ability to cross-sell its various secondary products to its mortgage customer base. That means this strong uptick in mortgage volume will not only drive better results immediately with every loan closed, but it will also trickle through to the other divisions in the bank, driving growth for quarters to come.
The wealth management business continues to rock and roll
As part of the bank's cross-selling strategy, Wells has pushed hard over the past few years to grow its wealth management division. The bank has brokerage services, wealth management, and retirement planning products, all of which have been doing very well of late.
In the second quarter, the combined Total Trust and Investment division earned a record profit of $602 million.
That record will likely be broken in the near future if the trends from the past few years continue. As of the second quarter for each of the past three years, the bank has seen income from total trust and investment fees as a percentage of non-interest income increase from 33% in 2013 to 35% in 2014 to 37% in 2015.
In other words, the unit is growing like a weed.
The wealth management business is a low-risk, fee driven model that is the perfect compliment to the bank's lending core. Investors should be thrilled with the unit's continuing success.
Things are looking strong for Wells Fargo & Co.
As with any large and complex business, the key to successful analysis is to focus on the businesses, metrics, and results that matter the most to the business' overall success. You simply can't dig into every detail when it comes to a $1.7 trillion bank.
For Wells Fargo, I'd argue that the loan portfolio, the mortgage business, and the wealth management business are three of the most critical drivers of the bank's long-term success. And in the second quarter of this year, Wells delivered on these critical factors in a huge way. Shareholders should be pleased.