Before the open, Wells Fargo (NYSE:WFC) reported solid Q3 results though other large financials reported relatively better numbers. The embattled bank is only now starting to deal with the financial impacts of the fraud fallout.
Wells Fargo is trading around $45 where support has existed for the stock all year. The question now is whether the investment thesis remains intact that the large bank is likely cheap, but still doesn't offer the relative value in the sector.
The key narrative for the Q3 results is the understanding that the settlement with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and other regulators took place on September 8. The bank is only now starting to feel the real impacts from the settlement and the unveiling of the fraud.
The elimination of the product sales goals weren't effective until October 1 and the CEO just retired on October 12. Due to the short impact to Q3, the unfortunate problem for shareholders is that the "kitchen sink" quarter will occur during the current quarter.
While the old CEO is out, Wells Fargo replaced John Stumpf with an internal candidate. New CEO Tim Sloan was only the COO since 2015, but he has worked at Wells Fargo for 29 years having worked primarily in the Wholesale and Commercial Banking segments. The facts aren't 100% clear whether Sloan was part of the previous management culture that led to the fraud.
Back to the Q3 results, this infographic from AlphaStreet highlights that general business conditions were strong for Wells Fargo. Average loans, assets under management and deposits were all up.
The biggest issues impacting net income growth is the squeeze on the net interest margin. For Q3, NIM came in at 2.82%, down from 2.96% last year.
The problem with all these metrics is the rearview mirror look. The fallout from the fraud in retail banking won't hit results until Q4 and beyond.
The bank is already reporting that September retail banking numbers were mostly down from August levels. One prime example is that consumer checking account opens were down 25% from last year levels.
Source: Wells Fargo Q316 supplement
Keep in mind, the negativity surrounding these fraud allegations didn't pick up until mid month so the above negative trends were only from a partial month. Ultimately though, the financial impact might be only a hit to growth as opposed to a reduction in assets and deposits at the bank.
With all of these issues impacting future results and more potential impact to existing management questions why investors want to pay a premium price to peer stocks. Compared to JP Morgan Chase (NYSE:JPM), Bank of America (NYSE:BAC) and Citigroup (NYSE:C), Wells Fargo still trades at a premium to tangible book value multiples.
WFC Price to Tangible Book Value data by YCharts
The key investor takeaway is that despite a decent Q3, Wells Fargo is only now feeling the financial impacts of the fraud case. The bank will face higher costs going forward to monitor new account setups and research past account issues. With the stock trading at a premium multiple, the recommendation is to continue avoiding the stock.
Disclosure: I am/we are long C.
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