I tend to agree with your comments about return on equity.
I find it quite interesting that you can frequently buy the stock of a company that earns, say, 6% on equity at half of book value. This means that the investor is actually earning 12% on his investment. If the stated 6% return is caused by conservative policies and low leverage, I like that scenario. In fact, I think this is precisely the situation with ANAT and NWLI and I own and am bullish on both.
That is exactly the way I do the math, too. Buying steady-eddie financial institutions like NWLI at half of book value is a good way to invest because the returns on your equity investment are often quite good when compared with the risks you are taking. Sometimes you have to have some patience, but much more often than not you win.