For most banks, the financial crisis was an unmitigated disaster, causing hundreds to fail and thousands others to egregiously dilute their shareholders. But for Wells Fargo , and a small handful of others, it served as a potent catalyst that allowed them to surge ahead of the competition.
For its part, Wells Fargo more than doubled in size thanks to the acquisition of its bigger but less-prudent peer, Wachovia. And as lenders like Bank of America and Citigroup were forced to retreat and retrench, Wells Fargo stepped into the void and consolidated a dominant position in the massive market for U.S. mortgages.
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How was it able to do so? The answer is simple: Wells Fargo has a long and well-documented history of responsible management. Unlike its too-big-to-fail peers, the California-based bank has cultivated a culture of thrift when it comes to expenses and excess when it comes to risk management. And by constantly nurturing talent from within, it's inculcated that culture in successive generations of leaders.
It's with this in mind that I recently spent a day rereading the last 20 years' worth of the shareholder letters written by various Wells Fargo chairmen and CEOs. What follows are seven valuable insights I've condensed, accompanied by quotes from the letters about them, that both investors and bankers can glean from one of the best-run banks in the country.
1. To be the best bank, you have to be the best risk manager
2. Bigger isn't always better
3. Any bank can have a vision; what matters is execution
4. Success requires restraint
5. Money never declines; it just moves
6. It's important to beconsistentlytrustworthy
7. Banks must reinvent themselves to survive and thrive for multiple generations
The article 7 Valuable Insights from America's Best Big Bank originally appeared on Fool.com.
John Maxfield has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Apple, Bank of America, and Wells Fargo and owns shares of Apple, Bank of America, Citigroup, 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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