Risk and Reward: 3 Bank Stocks for the Bold Investor

Stocks to buy

After navigating the crisis earlier this year that roiled regional bank stocks, the coast is clear to dive into this sector, right? Well, not quite. In June, Kellogg Insight stated that the regional subsegment of the broader financial ecosystem remained in crisis mode. Several days ago, The Hill reported that indeed, it’s still not out of the woods.

In particular, the article mentioned that headwinds may be storming toward the commercial real estate sector. Unfortunately, this might not bode well for risky bank stocks tied to the regional business model, which features heavy exposure to the space. With office vacancies skyrocketing, the pressure has ratcheted up on the sector’s financiers.

Nevertheless, the contrarian argument to this thesis is the broader return-to-office pivot. Whether it’s for productivity paranoia or for employers to covertly inspire voluntary resignations (and thus cynically save money), big businesses seem committed to returning the workplace back to pre-pandemic paradigms.

If so, daring contrarians may want to filter out candidates for bank stocks with potential. Below are a handful of possible ideas.

Oak Valley Bancorp (OVLY)

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Based in Oakdale, California, Oak Valley Bancorp (NASDAQ:OVLY) focuses on serving communities in the central and northern regions of the Golden State. Some debate exists about what is the exact delineation between central and northern; I’ll let you decide. The main point about OVLY is that while it’s one of the risky bank stocks, it also may feature potential.

Since the start of the year, OVLY gained 15% of equity value, which naturally stands out. Also, Oak Valley enjoys decent stability in the balance sheet, featuring zero debt on the books. In addition, it enjoys a very strong trailing-year net margin of 41.37% while maintaining consistent profitability. As well, its three-year revenue growth rate pings at an attractive 12.1%.

Despite these attributes, OVLY trades at only 6.13x trailing-12-month (TTM) earnings, lower than 75% of its peers. Still, it’s not devoid of possible challenges as the bank carries a market capitalization of less than $217 million.

At the same time, I’m watching a possible bullish pennant formation that’s been in play since December 2022. It just might be one of the bank stocks with potential.

ServisFirst Bancshares (SFBS)

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Headquartered in Birmingham, Alabama, ServisFirst Bancshares (NYSE:SFBS) is a full-service commercial bank. Per its website, Servisfirst focuses on commercial banking, correspondent banking, treasury management, private banking and the professional consumer market. From its original location in Birmingham, the firm expanded into other areas of the state, including Huntsville and Montgomery. It also features a presence in Florida and North Carolina.

That’s worth noting because young, upwardly mobile people are moving to North Carolina. Should inflation and other economic woes rise, it’s quite possible that SFBS could benefit from positive demographic influxes. Therefore, it’s one of the regional bank stocks with potential. Of course, that doesn’t mean it’s devoid of risk. Most conspicuously, since the start of the year, SFBS dropped 26% of equity value.

Still, contrarians might consider the positives. For example, Servisfirst features a strong cash-to-debt ratio of 30.49x, above nearly 90% of other bank stocks. Further, it commands a robust TTM net margin of 51.73%. Combined with a three-year revenue growth rate of 16.7%, SFBS may deserve to be on your watch list.

Zions Bancorporation (ZION)

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Hailing from Salt Lake City, Utah, Zions Bancorporation (NASDAQ:ZION) conducts business under the following seven brands: Zions Bank, Amegy Bank of Texas, California Bank and Trust, National Bank of Arizona, Nevada State Bank, Vectra Bank Colorado and The Commerce Bank of Washington. Per its public profile, Zions features over 400 branches and over one million customers.

Due to economic conditions that challenged millennials even before the Covid-19 crisis, many of the areas that Zions serves – such as Texas – have long represented top destination spots for ambitious young people. Fundamentally, then, ZION enjoys burgeoning relevance. That’s something to consider even though it does rank among the risky bank stocks.

Since the start of the year, ZION lost more than 29% of market value. Still, in the trailing half-year period, it gained almost 20%. As with the other banking firms, Zions benefits from a solid cash position, consistent profitability and a robust long-term revenue growth rate.

Just as well, ZION trades at only 6.36X trailing earnings and only 1.56x sales, below 72% of its peers.

On the date of publication, Josh Enomoto did not have (either directly or indirectly) any positions in the securities mentioned in this article. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the writer, subject to the InvestorPlace.com Publishing Guidelines.

A former senior business analyst for Sony Electronics, Josh Enomoto has helped broker major contracts with Fortune Global 500 companies. Over the past several years, he has delivered unique, critical insights for the investment markets, as well as various other industries including legal, construction management, and healthcare. Tweet him at @EnomotoMedia.

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