When it comes to Warren Buffett and banks, we’re used to hearing about the unbeatable Wells Fargo. But Buffett has tripled his position in another banking stock — suggesting that there’s more than one mega-bank worth a look. This one has low credit risk, a lot of cash, and plenty of room for international expansion. Get out your chequebooks, bank lovers.
Investing in banks ain’t easy. That’s just the truth. They aren’t manufacturing companies that we can forecast out 10 years from now with predictable revenue models. Banks are convoluted, multi-faceted organisations that should only be in your portfolio if you are knowledgeable in the banking industry, or have it on good, and I mean real good, authority. For the latter, you can look to occasionally-mentioned super investor Warren Buffett.
Shortly after the financial crisis, Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE: BRK-A, BRK-B) took positions in a couple of the super banks. His investment in Bank of America was more of a necessity for the beat-up bank, but Buffett also ramped up his position in Wells Fargo (NYSE: WFC), which is now widely considered to be the top bank around. Wells Fargo, in addition to being more conservative than its whale-employing competitors, like JP Morgan (NYSE: JPM) and Citigroup, holds an enormous amount of home mortgages on its books, ready for the coming housing rebound (that many believe has already begun). The Wells Fargo investment has already paid off handsomely for Buffett and Berkshire, but there is another bank that still has room to pop, and Buffett is making sure his company will benefit.
What a melon
In Berkshire’s latest 13-F, we see that Buffett has tripled his position in Bank of New York Mellon (NYSE: BK). BNY fits Buffett’s bank investment style because of its conservative practices, cash-printing tendencies, and sound management. The company has many appealing factors for those who find bank stocks cheap, and want exposure while maintaining a conservative approach.
BNY doesn’t make the bulk of its money from fly-by-night traders and morally bankrupt I-banking practices. Three quarters of the company’s revenue comes from recurring servicing fees, which is an ideal situation for a bank, or any company. BNY is the custodian of over US$27 trillion globally, and has over US$1 trillion directly under management. I don’t think I need to point out that servicing fees for US$27 trillion is a hefty chuck of recurring change.
Another interesting part about BNY is that more than 60% of its business still takes place in the United States. The company has an expanding global presence, and is eyeing more and more of its future revenue to be sourced from other regions of the world. This presents BNY with a unique opportunity to grow very quickly in its untapped markets around the world. It’s a rare case of a value-looking stock with strong growth potential.
And, speaking of value, BNY trades…well, like most bank stocks trade these days. An investor in BNY is currently paying 0.78 times book value – basically, like going to an estate sale. At less than 10 times forward earnings, it is priced only slightly higher than JP Morgan and Citigroup, and carries considerably less risk.
With interest rates absurdly low and seemingly staying that way for the foreseeable future, it makes sense to look at a financial stock that isn’t heavily reliant on those rates. By focusing its attention on servicing customer’s investments, BNY has drastically reduced its interest rate and credit risk, offering investors as close to a long-term forecast for revenues as possible in the banking industry.
Like I said, banks are not easy to invest in. There is a tremendous amount of due diligence that needs to go in to evaluating a financial institution, with the exception of local S&Ls. Following Buffett’s lead on this stock is a great move, given the transparency of BNY’s revenue streams and the conservative nature of its business.
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A version of this article, written by Michael Lewis, originally appeared on fool.com