Investors are always hunting for the next big stock -- the dream stock whose price increases several times over when the market finally discovers it. It's easy to look back and discover the 10 best stocks of the past decade. But I'm more interested in the tools that can help me evaluate tomorrow's greatest companies.

Here, we'll enlist our 130,000-member Motley Fool CAPS community to screen for financial companies, then get the story behind some of its more highly rated stocks. CAPS' nifty screener will help us find stocks with:

  • A market cap of at least $100 million.
  • A three year revenue growth rate of at least 20%.
  • A price-to-earnings ratio of less than 25.

Then we'll tap the collective intelligence of our CAPS members to see whether these companies present real opportunities -- or whether the dream is more of a nightmare.

Opinions with the numbers
Below is a sample of stocks our screen returned. You can run this screen yourself -- remember, though, that your results may differ from ours as the market changes.

Company

Revenue Growth Rate,
Past 3 Years

CAPS Rating
(out of 5 stars)

Hercules Technology Growth Capital (NASDAQ:HTGC)

55.4 %

*****

Apollo Investment (NASDAQ:AINV)

63.3 %

****

Allied Irish Banks (NYSE:AIB)

28.2 %

*****

Data and star rankings from CAPS as of May 15.

Hercules Technology Growth Capital
Hercules provides growth capital to technology companies of all sizes, a business model that hasn't been kind to investors lately. But the firm has managed to perform well during the economic downturn, even in a weak venture capital market. Since its inception in 2004, the company has committed more than $1.5 billion of invested capital, with gross loan losses of only $7 million. In the first quarter of this year, it grew revenue 31% year over year and had record net investment income of $0.35 per share. It was able to improve its effective yield on its debt investments, decrease its expenses, and repay a $135 million line of credit to Citibank (NYSE:C) and Deutsche Bank (NYSE:DB). With numbers like that, many CAPS members are learning to love the stock, especially with a current dividend yield of nearly 15%. At this point, 98% of the 215 CAPS members rating Hercules Technology Growth Capital expect it to outperform the market.

Apollo Investment
Shares in Apollo have seen a partial recovery after spiraling downward more than 75% in the past year. The business development company is in a precarious position in this market, since it invests in middle-market companies through a variety of loans and direct equity capital. Some investors are squeamish about the company's relatively small cash hoard, especially compared to its more than $1 billion in debt. That imbalance leaves the company in a risky position, especially if economic conditions worsen. But a BMO Capital Markets analyst said he expects the company to remain in compliance with its debt covenants, thanks to its ability to pay down debt with proceeds from the sale of investments. Many CAPS members think the company has plenty of long-term upside potential, particularly since it pays a strong dividend. As such, nearly 97% of the 994 CAPS members rating Apollo Investment are bullish.

Allied Irish Banks
The massive drop in share price for Allied Irish Banks over the past year has many CAPS members looking for some long-term upside. Even the possible risk that the bank may be fully nationalized can't entirely scare investors away from a fire sale for the largest retail bank in Ireland. Nearly 97% of the 2,302 CAPS members rating Allied Irish Banks expect it to outperform the market.

The bank recently raised its estimate for defaulting loan losses for this year. Like stressed-out U.S. banks such as Bank of America, Regions Financial (NYSE:RF), and Morgan Stanley (NYSE:MS), news broke last month that Allied needed to raise more money. Shareholders recently approved a 3.5 billion-euro government bailout, while the bank plans to raise 1.5 billion more by selling assets. A potential "bad bank" set up by the government could remove some troubled assets from AIB's balance sheet, and the bank will soon get a leadership change that many shareholders have demanded.

Let 130,000 members be the jury
The collective wisdom of a huge pool of investors can help give context to a page of numbers from a stock screen -- but individual investors are still the best judge. Fools should always perform their own due diligence.

Run your favorite factors through the Motley Fool CAPS screener. It's totally free, and we think you'll like the results.

Motley Fool Global Gains is yet another Foolish resource to help you find promising investment opportunities beyond our borders. Check out what stocks the international investing service is highlighting now free for 30 days.

Fool contributor Dave Mock dreams of stocks and sugarplum fairies, but not together. He owns no shares of companies mentioned here. Allied Irish Banks is a Global Gains recommendation. The Fool owns shares of Allied Irish Banks. The Fool's disclosure policy screens the good, the bad and the ugly.