There’s more to being a CEO than stock performance. That’s the message Morningstar apparently sent when it announced its 2015 CEO of the year award winner Tuesday, choosing Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf over the two other nominees, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and GE CEO Jeff Immelt.
shares sank almost 1% last year. GE
stock, meanwhile, was up 24%, and Amazon
rose an amazing 118%.
But Morningstar’s award, it says, is for the best CEO—not the best stock. (Efficient market theorists, and investors, might not see a difference.) And while Wells Fargo might seem a bit dowdy next to a high-flyer like Amazon, the bank has been a superstar in the financial industry: Not only has Wells Fargo returned twice as much as the S&P Financials index over the past decade, it’s the only major bank stock that has regained its pre-recession high, making up its financial-crisis losses.
The 35% stock price increase (and 68% total return) that Stumpf has achieved since mid-2007 at Wells Fargo looks a lot more impressive next to the performance of Bank of America
, which has lost 73% of its value over the same period; Morgan Stanley
, that’s shares have fallen 64%, and Goldman Sachs
, which is still down about 32% since then. J.P. Morgan
, for its part, is up about 10% over that time frame, less than a third of Wells Fargo’s returns.
“We named John Stumpf our 2015 CEO of the Year because we think he deserves credit for much of the success Wells Fargo has enjoyed in recent years,” Morningstar said in its announcement. “He guided the bank through a difficult period in the industry and shunned activities that put profits ahead of customers.” (Stumpf was also a reader’s pick for Fortune’s Businessperson of the Year in 2013.)
Morningstar says relative industry performance is a big part of how it picks its CEO of the year, and that the award, while given out each year, really rewards top executives for how they do over their tenure. Still, Morningstar also says a big criterion for the award is that the top executive “demonstrates independent thinking.”
Based on the latter criteria, it’s pretty hard to see how Stumpf, who has done an exceptional job leading a traditional bank, would win out against Bezos, who as much as anyone else invented Internet commerce. And it’s not just for 2015. Morningstar has never bestowed its CEO of the year title on Amazon’s CEO. Better luck next year, Bezos.