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Bank of America: A Great Turnaround Story

Motley Fool Staff, The Motley Fool

Although the company didn't exactly fare well during the financial crisis, Bank of America's (NYSE: BAC) management team has done a fantastic job of turning things around.

In this clip from Industry Focus: Financials, host Shannon Jones and Fool.com contributor Matthew Frankel discuss how far the bank has come and why it could be a great deal for investors.

A full transcript follows the video.

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This video was recorded on July 9, 2018.

Shannon Jones: Bank of America, they'll be reporting earnings on July 16th. I have to say, for me, Bank of America is probably one of the most impressive turnaround stories since the financial crisis. Matt, can you talk a little bit more about why that is and how they're making their money?

Matt Frankel: Absolutely. In terms of these big four, they were kind of two categories they were in. JPMorgan and Wells Fargo made it through the financial crisis pretty much unscathed. They had their issues, but for the most part, they were pretty healthy and definitely emerged stronger than they went in, through mergers and acquisitions and things like that. Then, there were the banks that did really poorly because they had a ton of risky assets on their balance sheet. That was Bank of America and Citigroup. Bank of America has done by far, by far the best job of improving itself since the crisis.

To give you a number, Bank of America put out a 10.8% return on equity in the first quarter. That would have been unheard of a few years ago. Granted, tax reform helped a little bit with that, but for most of the past decade, Bank of America has not been profitable, let alone putting up numbers like that. Management has done a great job of turning it around.

They actually beat the 10% return on equity benchmark, and 1% return on assets benchmark, for the first time in years. Their efficiency ratio is down to 60%, which is, like I said, what I look for for banks, which is even better than what Wells Fargo is, as we'll get to in a little bit. To say that Bank of America was more efficient than Wells Fargo a few years ago would have been a crazy statement. But Bank of America has done a great job turning itself around.

The management team has been great about embracing technology. They've really emerged as a technological leader. It won the No. 1 mobile app out of all U.S. banks a few times. I think Global Finance Magazine was the one that gave them that award. Don't quote me on that. Anyway, they've done a great job of embracing technology. I think 25% of their transactions now come from their mobile app, which saves them a ton of money. It's allowed them to decrease their branch structure quicker than all of the other big competitors and really decrease expenses, improve efficiency. Management has done such a great job.

The way I would sum that up, JPMorgan is the tried-and-true leader that has been doing everything right all along, and is really a well-run bank. If you want the industry leader, that's who you go for. Bank of America is actually in the late innings of a great turnaround story. We'll discuss valuation in a minute. If you want a company that's still valued like an up-and-comer, but is really starting to look like one of the best players in the industry, Bank of America is the one you want to look at.

Jones: I totally agree with you there, Matt. We'll talk about valuation, but I can already tell you, Bank of America is one of my top picks. JPMorgan, fairly easy to give a green light for. But I really love what BoA is doing.

An addition for me, moving forward, things I'll be looking at is to continue to see Bank of America focus on expense management even more, especially with the technology that they're rolling out. 60% efficiency is good, it's headed in the right direction. Would love to see that even lower as they roll out new technology.

But also, Bank of America has a higher than average concentration on non-interest-bearing deposits. In a rising rate environment, Bank of America actually stands to benefit more than some of the others as rates rise.

I'll certainly be tapped into that for the bank. With the Feds hinting at one more rate hike in the second half of 2018, plus the likelihood of at least three rate hikes come 2019, I'm really curious to see how that plays out for Bank of America moving forward.

Frankel: Bank of America actually just came out and said that, for a 100-basis point, that's a 1% increase, in the [...], they were expecting a $3 billion increase in profit for every 1% interest rate increase. That could be a big catalyst going forward. You mentioned the non-interest deposits. To put a number behind that, out of Bank of America's $1.3 trillion deposit base, $450 billion of that is non-interest-bearing. To compare that, that's more than double what Citigroup has. Bank of America is in a great position to benefit as interest rates rise, more so than the other banks.

Jones: Lots to love with BoA there.

Matthew Frankel owns shares of Bank of America. Shannon Jones has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.