Bank of New York Mellon Corp (NYSE: BK) trades at a P/E multiple of 13.0x, which is lower than the Financials sector median of 18.7x. While this makes BK appear like a stock to add to your portfolio, you might change your mind after gaining a better understanding of the assumptions behind the P/E ratio. In this article, I will break down what the P/E ratio is, how to interpret it and what to watch out for.

Understanding Valuation Multiples and the P/E Ratio

A Multiples Valuation, also known as a Comparable Companies Analysis, determines the value of a subject company by benchmarking the subject’s financial performance against similar public companies (Peer Group). We can infer if a company is undervalued or overvalued relative to its peers by comparing metrics like growth, profit margin, and valuation multiples.

A P/E Multiple is a valuation ratio that indicates the multiple of earnings investors are willing to pay for one share of a company:

`P/E Multiple = Stock Price ÷ Earnings Per Share`

The P/E ratio is not meant to be viewed in isolation and is only useful when comparing it to other similar companies. Since it is expected that similar companies have similar P/E ratios, we can come to some conclusions about the stock if the ratios are different. I compare Bank of New York’s P/E multiple to those of State Street Corporation (NYSE: STT), U.S. Bancorp (NYSE: USB), Ameriprise Financial, Inc. (NYSE: AMP) and Goldman Sachs Group, Inc. (The) (NYSE: GS) in the chart below.

source: finbox.io Benchmarks: P/E Multiples

Since Bank of New York’s P/E of 13.0x is lower than the median of its peers (15.5x), it means that investors are paying less than they should for each dollar of BK’s earnings. As such, our analysis shows that BK represents an undervalued stock. In fact, finbox.io’s P/E Multiple Model calculates a fair value of \$61.36 per share which implies 17.7% upside.