The iShares Dow Jones US Financial Services (NYSEARCA:IYG) ETF has clocked an impressive 14.67% return for the year so far. This vehicle tracks the performance of a wide assortment of finance stocks like commercial banks, investment banks, asset manager and credit card firms.
Of course, the overall bull move in the markets has been a major factor. After all, the 12-month return of the IYG is still -5.66%.
Besides, there are still some headwinds for finance stocks. One is the drop in interest rates, which has pinched margins. But there is also the threat of slowing global economic growth.
Yet despite all this, there are certainly attractive consumer finance stocks — especially those that have focused on next generation technologies like cloud computing and Artificial Intelligence (AI). And the winners will not be just be startups. Even traditional financial institutions should benefit.
So then what are the best consumer finance stocks to invest in now? Let’s take a look at three:
Bank Of America (BAC)
Source: Shutterstock When it comes to commercial banks, scale is critical. After all, the industry is highly commoditized. So achieving economies of scale can be a differentiator.
Just look at Bank of America (NYSE:BAC). In the latest quarter, the consumer banking segment posted earnings growth of 52% to $3.3 billion. There was also a nice 6% increase in debit and credit card use.
But this is only part of the story. Consider that BAC has been focused on digital transformation. For example, the company has 36.3 million active digital banking customers and 26.4 million use the mobile apps. While much of this has been due to typical online banking systems, BAC has been creating innovative technologies. There is Zelle, which is a peer-to-peer payments app. During the past year, transaction volumes soared by 97% to $14 billion. Then, there is Erica — an AI digital assistant — that has 4.8 million users.
Granted, the digital efforts are still in the early stages. But so far, they are showing lots of traction — and should help to lower costs and improve customer loyalty making BAC one of the top consumer finance stocks to buy today.
Source: Pictures of Money via Flickr (Modified) In the fintech world, Intuit (NASDAQ:INTU) has some of the most lucrative franchises: TurboTax and QuickBooks. Year after year they throw off substantial amounts of cash flows. But these businesses have also been a source of valuable data. Consider that QuickBooks has 4.5 million users and TurboTax has 36.4 million.
And yes, INTU has been leveraging the data by developing new offerings. For example, there is QuickBooks Capital, which analyzes accounting information to underwrite loans. Since the launch a year ago, the service has funded $277 million in loans.
INTU has also made progress on the AI front. To this end, it has built a digital assistant, called QB Assistant, that has answered more than 1.5 million questions.
Finally, INTU has seen lots of success with QuickBooks Employed, which makes it easier to track mileage and expenses. All in all, it is focused on the huge gig-economy opportunity, which involves fast-growing companies like Uber and Lyft. The app currently has 845,000 subscribers, up from about 489,000 a year ago.
Source: Shutterstock Since taking the helm of PayPal (NASDAQ:PYPL) in 2015, Daniel Schulman has made some great strategic decisions. A big part of this has been M&A. But Schulman also has taken a more collaborative approach with financial institutions. Let’s face it, consumers want choices — not to be locked into proprietary solutions.
The bottom line: The strategies have worked out quite well. PYPL continues to grow at a strong pace and generate significant cash flows. The company also has an enormous user base. Last year, the number of active accounts hit 267 million, up 17%. During this period, payment transactions jumped by 27% to 9.9 billion.
But perhaps the most important driver is Venmo, which is the must-have payments app for Millennials. In the latest quarter, transaction volume soared by 80% to $19 billion (for the full year it was $62 billion). What’s more, the monetization is still in the early phases. On an annualized basis, it looks like revenues will be about $200 million, compared to essentially zilch a year ago.
Tom Taulli is the author of High-Profit IPO Strategies, All About Commodities and All About Short Selling. Follow him on Twitter at @ttaulli. As of this writing, he did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.
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