If you're new to investing, targeting some rock-solid dividend-paying stocks is a fantastic place to start. But with hundreds of dividend stocks out there, a great way to narrow down the field is to look for companies that have a strong sense of identity and purpose. These types of companies are often more disciplined with their strategy and better able to communicate that vision to shareholders -- which, ultimately, will help you better understand the businesses and feel more confident in your investment. Today, I have two of the best dividend-paying companies that fit this mold perfectly.
1. Realty Income (NYSE:O)
For instance, hop over to this $11 billion dollar company's investor-relations website and you'll find this statement:
Our founders, William and Joan Clark, started with a simple idea -- to use the rent collected from commercial properties held under long-term leases to support monthly dividends to shareholders. Today, we continue to maintain that same commitment to the dividend.
In operation for 46 years, everything the "Monthly Dividend Company" does, or will do, revolves around this clear identity, which the company has followed through on by increasing its dividend for 20 consecutive years.
Realty Income's success is due much in part to designing a business model that fits its vision. For starters, the company owns a large and growing portfolio of over 4,400 single-tenant retail and industrial properties in 49 states and Puerto Rico, which the company focuses on leasing to tenants in nondiscretionary industries or to businesses that sell products at a low price point. These types of companies -- which include Walgreens, FedEx, and Dollar General among Realty Income's top tenants -- are often less vulnerable to economic swings and are therefore more reliable tenants.
Equally important, these tenants are locked into long-term leases that average 10 to 20 years in length. This strategy has helped to keep Realty Income's occupancy at a ridiculously high 96% since the company went public in 1994.
Ultimately, the combination of high occupancy and reliable tenants has helped to produce steady dividends. But, at least for me, it's the company's clear mission that has led to a disciplined approach and created not only steady dividends but a 16% annual return since 1994. And because I believe in the vision, and I expect this simple but effective strategy to continue to work, I think it's a great buy today.
2. ACE (NYSE:ACE)
Similar to Realty Income, this $33 billion insurer also has a tagline and has referred to itself as an "underwriting company." In reality, all insurance companies underwrite risk, but ACE's disciplined approach has turned it into an art form.
The underwriting prowess of property and casualty insurers, like ACE, is judged using the combined ratio. This metric measures the percentage of money collected in customer premiums that are eventually paid out in claims and expenses. For instance, from 2010 to 2014, ACE's global and North American peers averaged a combined ratio around 97%. This means for every $1 these companies collected in premiums they kept $0.03. In comparison, ACE's combined ratio averaged 90%.
There are a number of reasons why ACE has been able to consistently generate underwriting profits since its founding in 1985, but I think most critical is the company's culture and identity that focuses on discipline and takes pride in not chasing risk. And I think this culture is only getting stronger with the company's $28.3 billion announced acquisition of Chubb on July 1 of this year -- which, like ACE, has proven to be a strong underwriting company and has a remarkable 100-year track record.
Even better, because these two companies are so consistent they have proven to be incredible dividend stocks. ACE, for instance, has been steadily increasing its dividend since 1995, and Chubb is a Dividend Aristocrat, which has successfully increased its dividend for the last 33 consecutive years.
Ultimately, one of the most difficult challenges for any investor is getting to the core of what a company does, why it exists, and what will make it successful. This becomes even more difficult when it seems that many companies don't know themselves. ACE and Realty Income, on the other hand, have a clear sense of who they are and what they do well, and I think that makes these companies very easy to believe in, and that is a great reason to buy these companies today.