Wells Fargo (NYSE:WFC) has outperformed its three main competitors by such a wide margin over the past three decades that one would be excused for concluding it's in a league of its own. While its shares have returned a total of 7,070% since 1986, JPMorgan Chase (NYSE:JPM), Bank of America (NYSE:BAC), and Citigroup (NYSE:C), have returned only 1,110%, 521%, and 395%, respectively, over the same 30-year stretch.

JPM Total Return Price Chart

Three things explain how Wells Fargo accomplished this:

  • It generates more revenue relative to shareholders' equity than JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, and Citigroup.
  • It spends less of this revenue on expenses than its three too-big-to-fail peers.
  • As a result, Wells Fargo's profit margin is materially wider than that of JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, and Citigroup.

Scroll through the brief slideshow below for a graphical illustration of these potent competitive advantages.

John Maxfield has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Wells Fargo. The Motley Fool recommends Bank of America. 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.