CNBC Stock Blog

5 Bank Stocks to Thrive When 'Too Big to Fail' Dies staff

Amid huge trading volume in Citigroup shares and Goldman Sachs' blowout earnings, which banks look best? Bank analysts Collyn Gilbert of Stifel Nicolaus and Matt McCormick of Bahl & Gaynor offered CNBC their insights and stock picks.

Big Banks vs. Small Banks

Gilbert expects a "level playing field" for financial firms, once the concept of "too big to fail" becomes obsolete.

"The credit-sensitive names have done the best" in the current environment, she said.

And once the safety net is gone? "Look to the underperforming ones," Gilbert advises.

"First Niagara would be at the top of our list."

She explained that the regional bank "raised a billion of capital" in 2007-2008 and had completed two acquisitions.

In upcoming days, "a lot of banks will be scrambling for growth. But [First Niagara] can sit back and lever off the acquisitions and the capital."

(See her other stock picks, below.)

"I hope we see more nimble management," said McCormick. He criticized most banks' teams for lumbering through the crisis and its aftermath "like rhinoceroses."

He believes the "smaller, nimbler" names will "probably outperform" the sector. One exception: the more credit-sensitive Zions Bancorp. "They're a little bit frothy" now, he warns.

Gilbert's Other Picks:

NY Community Bancorp

People's United

Northwest Bancshares

Sterling Bancorp

More on Financials:

CNBC Slideshow:

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Disclosure information was not available for Gilbert, McCormick or their companies.