Just about every bad thing is ultimately good for somebody. Frenetic trading may not be a good idea for the individual investor, and more and more hedge funds may not be good for the securities markets in general, but it's all good news for Bank of New York (NYSE:BK).

Bank of New York, a.k.a., BONY, has its fingers in a lot of different pies. Not only does this company operate a regular old retail bank, but it also has interests in trading and corporate banking. The biggest part of the story, though, is securities services - BONY offers all sorts of custodial, trust, transfer, clearing, and administration services. While I know that doesn't sound terribly exciting, it's a very necessary business, and BONY is a major player.

Looking at fourth-quarter results, we see that revenue rose almost 14%, while EPS rose 18%. Turning to some of the numbers that bank stock investors look for, we see both return on assets and equity improved from last year, although the efficiency ratio worsened slightly. While there's definitely a credible argument to be made that BONY really shouldn't be analyzed the same way as, say, North Fork (NYSE:NFB) or Commerce Bancorp (NYSE:CBH), those ratios, nevertheless, have value -- return on assets and equity is important for all companies, and the efficiency ratio is just another way of analyzing profitability.

Moving to the business at hand, assets under custody climbed more than 12% from last year to nearly $11 trillion -- quite a bit more than rival Mellon's (NYSE:MEL) $3.9 trillion. Securities servicing fees climbed 10% in the quarter, and overall non-interest income, of which securities servicing fees provide a very large percentage, was up 8%. Net interest income, when measured on a core basis that excludes a year-ago leasing adjustment, climbed 9%, although interest spreads were lower.

While some companies like Bear Stearns (NYSE:BSC) and Citigroup (NYSE:C) compete in some of the same businesses, State Street (NYSE:STT) and Mellon are probably the most similar rivals. On that basis, BONY would seem to be trading at both a relative and an historical discount. So while this may not be the most scintillating business around, it's a good operator with an interesting valuation in an industry that's very important to the smooth operation of the financial markets.

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Fool contributor Stephen Simpson has no financial interest in any stocks mentioned (that means he's neither long nor short the shares).