Best global bank 2015: Citi – Last man standing

Citi is the last global wholesale bank offering all products to its clients everywhere. It operates in 100 countries and boasts a payment system handling $3 trillion of transactions a day, which no other bank is ever likely to emulate. It has taken the axe to its global consumer business, but still operates in 24 countries. Under the leadership of Michael Corbat, Citi has closed the share price discount to book value. It must now prove that a global universal bank can avoid the pitfalls of scale and deliver sustainable returns. If it does, it will be the only one


Euromoney sits down with a top executive of one of the leading emerging market banks. Africa is on his mind. "Did you know," he asks, "that at the start of this decade something like 50% of trade finance across Africa was provided by international banks? Guess how much they provide today." 

Probably a lot less than 50%, ventures Euromoney. "It’s essentially zero," he says. "Partly that’s down to regulatory capital treatment of trade finance assets and a hangover from the pull back of banks to home markets that followed the financial crisis. But, given the attractions of Africa in a low-growth world, what that tells me is that the era of global expansion among the world’s leading banks is over. It’s finished, certainly for the rest of my lifetime."

Two days later, on the other side of the Atlantic, Euromoney sits down with the chief executive of a large, locally focused national champion bank and hears much the same message. "When you see even a bank like HSBC announcing its retreat from markets with such attractive demographics as Turkey and Brazil, you have to ask what on earth is going on. Is HSBC really that bad at managing its local operations, or are large global banks essentially unmanageable?"

A third chief executive sympathizes with Euromoney’s task of choosing a best global bank for 2015. "We are all much less comparable today than we were just a few years ago. We all used to pursue the same global model. But today, we’re all concentrating on our own particular geographic, client and product areas of strength. No one anymore is trying to do all things in all markets."