Wells Fargo simply avoids stupid. It focuses its energy on making good mortgages, on credit cards, on banking services that people use. It takes lots of deposits and makes loans.
Wells grew its mortgage portfolio rapidly from 2009 to 2012, with its market share topping out at nearly 34% in the middle of 2012. But as the housing market has heated up Wells has retreated, laying-off mortgage bankers and selling off some servicing rights.
Right now the bank sees better prospects in credit cards. It recently signed a deal to fund, issue and service Dillards' (DDS) private label credit cards and has quietly become the nation's eighth-leading issuer.
Part of the reason for Wells' prosperity is that while its bigger brethren were struggling during the 2008 crisis with acquisitions like Countrywide Finance, Merrill Lynch, Washington Mutual and Bear Stearns, Wells Fargo's only big acquisition that year was Wachovia, which it bought without government help.The price of Wells' shares plunged to a low near $12 at the start of 2009, and the dividend was cut to 5 cents per share. Still, the dividend remained intact, and within a few months of the low the price of shares was back above $28. Since then, the shares' rise has been relatively steady, to their present level of almost $50. The dividend has risen 600% to its present level of 30 cents per share. It's pretty boring. Most investors couldn't pick CEO Stumpf out of a lineup. But who wants their banker to be a rock star? Wouldn't you prefer they just make you money? I would. At the time of publication the author owned shares of WFC, BAC and PB but held no position in any of the other stocks mentioned. Follow @danablankenhorn This article represents the opinion of a contributor and not necessarily that of TheStreet or its editorial staff.