Despite the financial crisis that has created trillions of dollars of losses for banks, the industry has hope yet, says legendary investor Warren Buffett.
He is especially bullish on Wells Fargo, of which he is a major shareholder.
“Those guys have gone their own way,” he told Fortune, referring to Wells.
“That doesn't mean that everything they've done has been right,” Buffett acknowledges. “But they've never felt compelled to do anything because other banks were doing it.
“And that's how banks get in trouble, when they say, ‘Everybody else is doing it, why shouldn't I?’”
As for the industry as a whole, Buffett says, “in the end banking is a very good business unless you do dumb things.”
“You get your money extraordinarily cheap, and you don't have to do dumb things. But periodically banks do it, and they do it as a flock, like international loans in the ’80s.”
Banks benefit from a low cost of funding, Buffett points out.
“You don't have to be a rocket scientist when your raw material cost is less than 1½ percent,” he says.
“So I know that you can have a model that works fine, and Wells has come closer to doing that right than any other big bank by some margin. They get their money cheaper than anybody else.”
Other experts have mixed views toward banks. Richard Bove is bullish, while Mike Mayo and Meredith Whitney remain bearish.
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