The 29th richest person in America in 2010, according to Forbes magazine, is George Kaiser of Tulsa, Oklahoma. Now worth $9.4 billion, Kaiser got his start in his father's oil business, and the rest is history.

Kaiser's biggest move came in 1991 when he bought $61 million in Bank of Oklahoma preferred stock from the FDIC. Today, as Chairman, he still owns 60% of BOK Financial (Nasdaq:BOKF), the holding company established by Kaiser back in 1991. Since then, BOK Financial has expanded into seven bordering states, including Texas and Colorado. When Kaiser first bought in, earnings were around $9 million. Today, they are $247 million. A lot has changed, and all for the better. (For more on how to analyze a bank, check out Analyzing A Bank's Financial Statements.)

TUTORIAL: Investing 101

Expansion
Through a combination of acquisitions and organic growth, it's now the 21st-largest publicly traded bank holding company in America, with assets totaling $24 billion in 2010. Its two biggest markets in terms of market share are Oklahoma and Albuquerque with 12.2% and 9.9% respectively. However, its biggest potential could be down in Texas, where it has 51 branches in the Dallas and Houston metropolitan areas with another 14 in Denver and seven in Phoenix and Kansas City combined. These are some of the fastest growing markets in the country, and although the recession has slowed growth, it eventually will resume and when it does, Kaiser and CEO Stan Lybarger will pounce. (For more about market share, check out Which Is Better: Dominance Or Innovation?)

A Good Year
Despite lackluster loan growth due to consumer and business reluctance to add to their debt levels, 2010 was a record year for the company. Net income was $247 million, 23% higher than in 2009 and 13% higher than the previous record of $218 million set in 2007. Highlights of the successful year included increased brokerage and mortgage banking revenue, lower loan losses, total deposits grew and book value per share increased. Since Kaiser's involvement, earnings per share have grown at a compounded annual rate of 13%. In 2008, while many banks were losing money, it maintained profitability and never took a dime in TARP money, the largest commercial bank not participating. Of its 20-closest peers by size, 13 have still not returned to usual profit levels, and four haven't made a profit in either of the last two years. Shareholders can be proud of the company's accomplishments in a difficult time. (To read more on TARP, check out Liquidity And Toxicity: Will TARP Fix The Financial System?)

BOK Financial and Peers
Company P/E P/B P/S P/CF
BOK Financial (Nasdaq:BOKF) 14.0 1.4 2.8 9.4
Cullen/Frost Bankers (NYSE:CFR) 17.3 1.8 4.3 8.5
Commerce Bancshares (Nasdaq:CBSH) 16.5 1.8 3.5 5.4
Tranzact Financial (NYSE:TFS) 16.5 1.5 3.1 12.0
Popular (Nasdaq:BPOP) -52.6 0.9 1.1 17.2

Valuation
BOK's stock isn't "dirt cheap" at current prices, but it is trading below its five-year average for P/E, P/B, P/S and P/CF. In terms of price-to-earnings, only once in the last decade has it traded for a lower multiple, and that was in 2002, when it averaged 12.7-times. Its current P/B ratio has never been lower. Yet, its stock over the past decade has still outperformed the S&P 500 by 7.3% annually and its peers by 8.4%. Only once since 2005 has it traded below $40. On the upside, while it jumped above $60 in April, 2008, it hasn't gotten close since. If it continues to deliver solid results, the price resistance will be broken soon enough. (For more on evaluation, see How To Choose The Best Stock Valuation Method.)

Bottom Line
BOK Financial is a conservatively run bank. The fact that it said no to TARP money is very commendable indeed. However, there's one thing that really stands out for me and that's George Kaiser's ownership. If BOK Financial is good enough for him, it should be for the rest of us mere mortals. (To help determine in a stock is right for you, see Equity Valuation In Good Times And Bad.)

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