Sunday, December 22, 2013

Banking's Total Return Top 5: 2013 Edition

For the past two years I searched for the Top 5 financial institutions in five-year total return to shareholders because I grew weary of the "get big or get out" mentality of many bankers and industry pundits. If their platitudes about scale and all that goes with it are correct, then the largest FIs should logically demonstrate better shareholder returns. Right?

Not so over the three years I have been keeping track.

My method was to search for the best banks based on total return to shareholders over the past five years... capital appreciation and dividends. However, to exclude trading inefficiencies associated with illiquidity, I filtered for those FIs that trade over 1,000 shares per day. This, naturally, eliminated many of the smaller, illiquid FIs.

For comparison purposes, here are last year's top five, as measured during December, 2012:

#1.  BofI Holdings, Inc.
#2.  Bank of the Ozarks, Inc.
#3.  Access National Corporation
#4.  Hingham Institution for Savings
#5.  Texas Capital Bancshares, Inc.

This year's list is in the table below:

BofI Holdings celebrates its third year on this august list. Congratulations to them. A summary of the banks, their strategies, and links to their website are below. 

#1. BofI Holdings Inc. (Nasdaq: BOFI)

BofI Holdings Inc. and its subsidiary BofI Federal Bank aspire to be the most innovative branchless bank in the United States providing products and services superior to their competitors, branch-based or otherwise. In its latest investor presentation, BofI claims that its business model is more profitable because its costs are lower. It supports the claim by highlighting its efficiency ratio compared to peer banks (38.7% versus 68.5%, respectively) and its operating expenses as a percent of average assets compared to peer banks (1.66% versus 3.09%, respectively).So, as a branchless bank, BofI has leveraged its significantly lower operating expenses into profit. That profit led to the top spot in five year total return to shareholders, three years running. Well done!

Continuing the theme of niche banks, Marlin is a direct lender providing financing to business so they can acquire new equipment and technology while preserving capital. Since 1997 Marlin has extended $3 billion in financing to small and mid-sized companies acquiring computer software and hardware, telecommunications, medical equipment, and other office equipment. I considered excluding Marlin from my rankings because it started as a straight finance company. But why exclude niche players? Especially if I believe community banks must increasingly be known for some niche to differentiate. I first became aware of Marlin at the Utah Bankers Association Executive Development Program, where a Marlin Business Bank officer was attending. Marlin Business Bank was chartered in 2008 so Marlin could fund its various financing activities. The Bank sports a year-to-date ROA of 2.90% and ROE of 19.6%. Not too shabby.

One of the largest bank holding companies in the Atlanta area, you would first think that Fidelity Southern is the first plain vanilla community bank in the Top 5. But you would be wrong. How often have we seen banks pursue fee-based line of business strategies to augment their spread business but have failed miserably at running these businesses profitably? I know I have seen it more often than not. But Fidelity Southern's fee income to total revenue is between 50%-60%! Nearly half of the fee income comes from their mortgage banking business, boasting over 300 employees throughout the southeast, and ranking 2nd in the Atlanta MSA in purchased home volume. But their spread business is unique also. Over 50% of the loan portfolio is indirect auto, with originations coming from Tennessee to Florida.  Indirect auto portfolios, as many of you know, performed well during the past recessionary period. And Fidelity Southern shareholders have benefited. The bank achieved a year-to-date ROA of 1.24% and ROE of 14.16%. And earned a spot in the JFB Top 5 with a 517% five-year total return. Well done! 

#4. Eagle Bancorp, Inc. (Nasdaq: EGBN)

EagleBank, founded in 1998, is a traditional community-based business bank, serving the metro Washington DC market. The Company has posted 19 consecutive quarters of increased net income at September 30... a consistent financial performer. It had a 4.31% net interest margin and a 52% efficiency ratio for the third quarter. Commercial real estate and commercial and industrial loans make up 74% of its loan portfolio. Loans are funded 86% with core deposits, allowing the bank to maintain a superior net interest margin. Another key to the bank's strong efficiency ratio is average deposits per branch. At September 30, the bank had $3 billion in deposits with only 18 branches, for an average of $166 million per branch. Eagle is run by Ron Paul, a highly respected real estate investor/developer. Interesting how so many high performing financial institutions have CEOs from other industries. I salute Eagle's 463% five-year total return to their shareholders.

#5. Bancorp, Inc. (Nasdaq: TBBK)

Founded in 2000, The Bancorp creates customized banks for affinity partners in the healthcare, payments, and institutional banking industry. According to its third quarter investor presentation, the bank's greatest revenue comes from pre-paid cards (35% of revenue), followed by revenues from a traditional community bank (22% of revenues) that manages $1.4 billion of the $4 billion asset balance sheet. The branchless community bank operates in the Wilmington-Philadelphia market. Yet another niche bank for our Top 5. The strategy delivered a year-to-date ROA of 0.59% and ROE of 6.89%, and a 453% five-year total return to shareholders. Congratulations! 

There you have it! The JFB all stars in top 5, five-year total return. The largest of the lot is $4 billion in total assets. Bank of America... not here. Jamie Dimon, ditto. PNC, sports a Steelers-like record. But, congratulations to all of the above that developed a specific strategy and is clearly executing well. Your shareholders have been rewarded!

Are you noticing themes that led to these banks' performance?

~ Jeff

Note: I make no investment recommendations in my blog. Please do not claim to invest in any security based on what you read here. You should make your own decisions in that regard. FINRA makes people take a test to ensure they know what they are doing before recommending securities. I'm sure that strategy works well.

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