1 Thing You're Missing About Wells Fargo


Wells Fargo Plaza, Houston. Source: Matthew de Valle

Wells Fargo has a lot going for it, but there's one thing that many people may be overlooking when it comes to this bank.

At the core of every business, whether it be a technology company like Apple, a restaurant chain like McDonalds, or even a bank like Wells Fargo, there is one number from which all other numbers flow, and that, of course, is revenue. Without the top line of revenue coming into a business, there would be no profits, no income, no dividends, and really no business.

The recent example of seeing SnapChat, which has never recorded a single cent of revenue, turn down a $3 billion offer from Facebook may cause many to think that this is no longer the case -- but that's another article for another day (in the meantime, this one is a great place to start). All I have to say about that is, if a business doesn't have customers who are willing to pay for the services or products it provides, it's probably not a business I want to hold as an investment.

So what does any of that have to do with a megabank like Wells Fargo? The company touts that it has recorded 10 straight quarters of reporting record net income, which is a mighty impressive feat, and it's also among the best in the industry when it comes to a few key metrics such as return on average assets and average equity. But when it comes to revenue, Wells Fargo also is unmatched.

The concern
Wells Fargo has done a mighty impressive job of growing its revenue over the past 10 quarters, thanks in large part to the refinancing boom we've seen with low interest rates:

Source: Company investor relations.

Yet with the sizable drop in revenue seen from the second quarter to the third quarter (to its lowest level in nine quarters no less), many investors were likely starting to have some hesitations about whether or not Wells Fargo would continue its reign as one of the top banks.

The reality
But the following charts should give investors a great amount of confidence when it comes to the revenue side of things at Wells Fargo, especially when compared with other highly esteemed peers such as US Bancorp and PNC , as well as fellow megabanks such as Bank of America , JPMorgan Chase, and Citigroup :

Source: SNL Financial

Even despite the significant decline in its revenue, Wells Fargo still led its peers in its ability to generate revenue from its available assets in the most recent quarter. This shows that Wells Fargo is not only among the industry leader in wringing out income from its assets, but also one of the key drivers behind that principally comes from its ability to bring in top line revenue.

With banks in a low-interest-rate environment, many have noted that revenue is tough to come by, since they can't garner as much interest on the assets they hold. Wells Fargo is often considered one of the most traditional banks and most dependent on interest income, so it, too, has undoubtedly been hurt by this reality. But when you consider it led the way not only in overall revenue/average assets, but also fee income/average assets, you see that it also is one of the best at generating revenue in traditional and non-traditional ways:

Source: SNL Financial.

Many banks have noted the need to generate more stable and consistent revenue through the form of fees, but as you can see, Wells Fargo once again takes the lead in this form of revenue as well. It's also worth pointing out that often refinancing income comes in the form of fees, so this industry leadership comes despite the $1.2 billion drop in mortgage banking income in the third quarter relative to the second as a result of the fall in refinancing.

Often investors will point to the bottom-line numbers and ratios to show why Wells Fargo is a compelling investment consideration -- but its top-line numbers are also among the best in the industry.

Picking the right bank
While Wells Fargo and other banks continue to deliver great results and great returns, many investors are terrified about investing in big banking stocks after the crash, but the sector has one notable stand-out. In a sea of mismanaged and dangerous peers, it rises above as "The Only Big Bank Built to Last." You can uncover the top pick that Warren Buffett loves in The Motley Fool's new report. It's free, so click here to access it now.

The article 1 Thing You're Missing About Wells Fargo originally appeared on Fool.com.

Fool contributor Patrick Morris owns shares of Bank of America, Apple, and US Bancorp. The Motley Fool recommends Apple, Bank of America, Facebook, McDonald's, and Wells Fargo and owns shares of Apple, Bank of America, Citigroup, Facebook, JPMorgan Chase, McDonald's, PNC Financial Services, and Wells Fargo. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools don't 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.

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Originally published