United Bankshares (NASDAQ:UBSI) is actually older than West Virginia itself. Its predecessor institution was Northwestern Bank of Virginia, founded in 1839 in what is now Parkersburg, W.Va., but was then Parkersburg, Va. West Virginia didn’t come into existence as a state until 1863, when it split off from Confederate Virginia to join the Union during the Civil War.
How’s that for deep roots in a state?
Today, United Bankshares — now based out of Charleston — is a major regional bank, with $8.5 billion assets and 126 offices in five states and Washington, D.C. It was the nation’s 46th largest bank by market cap at year-end 2011, which currently is $1.3 billion. UBSI describes itself as “the largest independent banking franchise remaining in the nation’s capital metropolitan statistical area.”
It has been an acquisitive institution, growing by addition through the years. Last July, it made its 28th purchase under current management by buying Centra Financial Holdings, a $1.3 billion in assets institution and the top bank in Morgantown, W.Va. Centra also gave UBSI access to Pittsburgh for the first time.
For full-year 2011, UBSI’s revenue slipped by 4.7% to $367 million, but net income climbed 5% to $75.6 million.
In this time of volatile stock prices and uncertain economic outlooks, United Bankshares has a solid claim to the hearts of safety-minded investors: its dividend record. Last year marked the 38th consecutive year that it hiked its payout, one of only two U.S. banks to make that claim. And in the fourth quarter, it was added to S&P’s High Yield Dividend Aristocrats Index.
United Bankshares might now have a name with a modern ring to it, but it’s clearly well grounded in West Virginia’s history and economy.
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Mike Mercurio is Managing Editor of InvestorPlace. As of this writing, he did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.