Today I am considering which is the better FTSE 100 (INDEXFTSE: UKX) growth candidate: banking star Lloyds (LSE: LLOY) or pharma giant GlaxoSmithKline (LSE: GSK)?

Slow and steady wins the race?

For those seeking reliable earnings expansion in the years ahead, it could certainly be argued that Lloyds is the superior growth bet.

That does not mean to say Lloyds doesn’t carry its share of risk, naturally. Although the ‘Remain’ camp appears to be nudging ahead in the run-up to June’s ‘Brexit’ referendum, the bank’s earnings prospects could take a hefty dent should Britain tumble out of the EU.

Meanwhile, an anticipated escalation in PPI costs is expected to take a bite out of the bottom-line in the near-term — an 11% dip is currently predicted for 2016 by City brokers.

Still, Lloyds’ focus on the stable British high street gives it a layer of security that many of its emerging-market dependent peers lack. Furthermore, Lloyds is not at the mercy of the often-volatile investment banking segment.

Meanwhile, the bank’s long-running Simplification cost-cutting strategy is also stripping unnecessary wastage out of the system for the years ahead. Consequently Lloyds is expected to bounce back with a 2% earnings rise in 2017.

Drugs delight

The word ‘stable’ is something that certainly cannot be applied to drugs star GlaxoSmithKline.

The enduring problem of patent losses on key products has seen earnings collapse during each of the past four years. But massive product investment in rapidly-expanding treatment areas like respiratory, cardiovascular and vaccines is expected to drive the bottom line higher from this year onwards — indeed, a 16% earnings rise is predicted for 2016 alone.

However, the business of drugs development is a hugely risky business, where setbacks in the lab can result in huge revenues losses through product delays, or even cancellations, not to mention colossal cost increases.

Just this week GlaxoSmithKline opted against submitting its IONIS-TTR heart product — a drug developed with US giant Ionis Pharmaceuticals — for Phase III studies. Testing had been placed on hold by the US FDA earlier this year on safety grounds.

Still, the Brentford firm has a terrific record of getting product from beaker to the pharmacy shelf, and new product sales more than doubled during January-March on an annualised basis, to £821m.

So who takes it?

There’s no clear ‘winner’ in this particular contest, in my opinion.

Instead, the case of whether Lloyds or GlaxoSmithKline is the better growth stock depends on an individual investor’s own tolerance of risk.

Sure, GlaxoSmithKline may experience more bottom-line turbulence than Lloyds, in both the near-term and beyond. But earnings at the pharma play could detonate should its R&D team deliver the goods, and the business rake in revenue from galloping global healthcare demand with the next generation of earnings drivers.

But regardless of which stock you may personally prefer, I believe both Lloyds and GlaxoSmithKline provide great value relative to their long-term growth prospects, the firms dealing on prospective P/E ratings of 9.3 times and 16.1 times respectively. I reckon both businesses are worthy investments at current share prices.

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Royston Wild has no position in any shares mentioned. The Motley Fool UK owns shares of and has recommended GlaxoSmithKline. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors.