PNC Financial Services (PNC): One Thing Investors Are Missing About This Bank

As a fan of regional banks over their much larger compatriots, PNC Financial Services (NYSE:PNC) is one bank that has always interested me, so I decided to take a deeper look at the bank to get a better understanding of how it PNC Financial Services (NYSE:PNC)operates. Last week, we looked at where the Pittsburgh-based bank made its money, as well as just how profitable it is. With this article, we will look at a small — yet very profitable — piece of PNC’s business, and why investors should take note of it.

The business of PNC Financial
As mentioned in both of the previous articles, PNC Financial Services (NYSE:PNC) breaks its business into six different business segments, the largest being its traditional retail banking business. However, it is the smallest segment that is perhaps most interesting:

Business Segment 2012 Revenue 2012 Net Income (Loss) Profit Margin
Retail Banking $6.328 billion $596 million 9.4%
Corporate & Institutional Banking $5.697 billion $2.328 billion 40.9%
Asset Management Group $973 million $145 million 14.9%
Residential Mortgage Banking $526 million ($308) million N/A
BlackRock (NYSE:BLK) $512 million $395 million 77.1%
Non-Strategic Assets Portfolio $843 million $237 million 28.1%
Total business segments $14.879 billion $3.393 billion 22.8%

Source: Company 10-K.

As you can see, PNC’s investment in asset management firm BlackRock was responsible for only 3.4% of the bank’s total revenues. However, because of the segment’s high profit margin, it accounted for 11.6% of the net income earned by the bank last year. That’s quite impressive for a passive equity investment, so let’s take a look at what BlackRock is and how PNC Financial makes money from it.

What is BlackRock?
BlackRock started in 1988 as part of The Blackstone Group, later merging with parts of PNC’s asset management subsidiaries in 1995 and becoming an independent company owned by PNC Financial Services (NYSE:PNC).

It went public in 1999, and since then has grown into the world’s largest publicly traded investment management firm, with over $3.7 trillion of assets under management. It is probably best known for its iShares-branded ETFs, though it also offers mutual funds and other investment products.

When BlackRock went public in 1999, PNC still owned 70% of the company, a position the bank has gradually reduced over subsequent years to its current 22% ownership. As BlackRock has grown to its current size, PNC has been along for the ride, reaping the benefits of ownership along the way, with $1.8 billion in unrealized gains. BlackRock’s performance over the past 10 years helps illustrate why PNC benefits from its investment:

BLK Chart

BLK data by YCharts.

Equity investments are not unique
PNC Financial Services (NYSE:PNC) is far from the only company that reaps rewards from the performance of companies it invests in. Probably the best example is Berkshire Hathaway.