In the hustle-and-bustle world of 2015, it seems like everything is constantly changing. For those of us that are a little technologically impaired, it can be a challenge just to keep up.
The technology sector is a great example. Only a decade ago, smartphones were just arriving. I still remember getting my very first smartphone in 2006, a Palm Treo. It could make phone calls, get email, and even had a barely usable web browser. I proudly showed it off to anyone who cared about that kind of thing. Nowadays, you’d probably get laughed out of the room if you showed off a Treo.
These rapid changes aren’t just affecting phones. Even sectors like retail sales are feeling the pinch, since so many consumers are migrating to buying stuff online. The sector was once thought of as bulletproof, but technology has changed the game.
One of the few sectors that hasn’t really been changed is banking. Sure, we do far more electronically than we ever used to, but the banks have still found a way to collect their fees on those transactions, all while saving on costs. And crowd funding has gained momentum, but it still pales in comparison to traditional banks.
If there’s a business that looks to be able to stand up over the next 100 years as well as it has in the last 100, it’s banking. If you’re looking for stocks to buy and hold forever, the banking sector a great place to start.
A serious dividend
The year was 1870. Canada had only become a nation three years earlier. John D. Rockefeller officially incorporated Standard Oil, which would later grow into the largest company on the planet. And in April the team that eventually became the Chicago Cubs played their first ever baseball game, which, knowing the Cubs, they probably lost.
And a small, fledgling bank in Halifax paid its first ever dividend to shareholders. Nearly 150 years later, that bank is the largest in Canada and hasn’t missed a dividend since. That’s the kind of track record that’s easy to get behind.
More recently, dividend growth has been outstanding. In the last decade, the annual dividend has grown from $1.18 to $2.84 per share, a compounded growth rate of 10% annually. Considering that includes a couple of years during the financial crisis when it just maintained the dividend, that’s some impressive growth.
Although Royal Bank is Canada’s largest bank, it has done a nice job diversifying assets outside of Canada.
The company owns 93 branches and has more than 1.4 million customers in the Caribbean and United States. It also has a strong investment banking business in the U.S., and is a player in wealth management there as well. And with the acquisition of City National, slated to close later this year, look for even greater diversification away from Canada. In the long run, that’s good news.
The undisputed champion of Canada
There’s a reason why Royal Bank has become Canada’s largest financial institution. It’s a really good bank.
According to the latest investor presentation, Royal Bank is first in consumer lending, first in mutual funds, first in small business loans, and first in business deposits. The only blemish is that it’s second in consumer deposits and GICs. Add all that to the company’s more than 1,200 branches nationwide, and we have the undisputed dominant banker in Canada.
Plus, employees are able to cross-sell additional products to clients 24% of the time, which is much higher than the average of its competitors. That type of advantage means Royal Bank should be able to maintain its position as the market leader in the Canadian retail banking sector.
There are always risks that will haunt the banking sector. It won’t always be smooth sailing, but if there’s one sector that should be able to ride it out, it’s that one. Royal Bank is the best in the business, so it only makes sense to hold it. If you’re looking for a forever stock, there are a lot worse choices out there.
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This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium service or advisor. We’re Motley! Questioning an investing thesis — even one of our own — helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer, so we sometimes publish articles that may not be in line with recommendations, rankings or other content.
Fool contributor Nelson Smith has no position in any stocks mentioned.