"Governance risk" isn't the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about bank stocks, but it's important to consider as you choose among potential investments. The slideshow below should help in this regard by revealing the 10 big banks that earned the highest scores on Institutional Shareholder Services' QuickScore 3.0, which looks at four different categories of corporate governance to produce a combined score, ranking banks on a scale of 1 to 10 (with 1 being the best).

Rating Category

Specific Focus

Board Structure

Board compensation, composition of board committees, board practices, board independence, etc.

Compensation

Pay for performance vs. non-performance based pay, used of equity incentives, golden parachutes, etc.

Shareholder Rights

Voting formalities, one share one vote, takeover defenses, etc.

Audit Practices

External auditor, audit and accounting controversies, etc.

Source: Institutional Shareholder Services, How QuickScore Works.

The banks that did best on ISS's assessment include U.S. Bancorp (NYSE:USB), Wells Fargo (NYSE:WFC), PNC Financial (NYSE:PNC), and Huntington Bancshares (NASDAQ:HBAN), among others. All of these banks earned high marks in particular when it came to the structure and amount of compensation as well as audit and risk oversight. Wells Fargo and U.S. Bancorp received top scores for risk oversight, while PNC Financial and Huntington Bancshares distinguished their operations with industry-leading grades for compensation.

Scroll through the brief slideshow below to learn where these four banks ranked relative to the other companies that made the cut -- a table with the complete scores follows the slideshow.

 

Bank

Overall Score

Board Structure

Shareholder Rights

Compensation

Audit & Risk Oversight

PNC Financial

1

5

3

1

2

Wells Fargo

2

4

6

1

1

KeyCorp

2

2

3

3

1

Bank of New York Mellon

3

2

4

1

10

Northern Trust

3

7

1

5

2

Huntington Bancshares

4

4

8

1

1

SunTrust Banks

5

3

6

1

10

Regions Financial

5

4

6

4

2

Citigroup

6

8

3

4

10

U.S. Bancorp

6

5

5

8

1

Source: Institutional Shareholder Services.

John Maxfield has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Wells Fargo. The Motley Fool has the following options: short January 2016 $52 puts on 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.