Euromoney Awards for Excellence Western Europe 2015: Press release

ING named best bank in Western Europe, Bank of America Merrill Lynch named best regional investment bank.

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Leading figures from the banking and capital markets across Europe gathered in London tonight to hear the announcement of Euromoney’s Awards for Excellence 2015.

Euromoney’s awards have recognized the leading firms in financial services for more than 20 years and are a benchmark for excellence in banking and capital markets in Europe.

Euromoney described a year when the eurozone emerged from recession, but banks faced higher regulatory burdens, with low central-bank rates hurting interest margins, and continued changes in the way customers approach their banks.

"The institutions that have won best bank awards in Western Europe are those that have acted early to adapt their businesses to the new banking realities," notes Euromoney.

In that context, ING won best bank in Western Europe, in addition to best bank in Belgium and the Netherlands. Euromoney noted ING’s increased cost efficiency, and its proficiency in digital banking, which has helped it grow in countries where it does not possess large branch networks.

That was most evident this year in Germany, where ING’s loan book and profitability shot up despite its lack of physical branches.

Euromoney says ING’s position today is all the more impressive given the challenges it faced after 2008, adding: "ING has undergone a radical transformation over the last six years."

This was most evident in year to end-March 2015, when ING made its final repayment of bailout money from the Dutch state, paid its first dividend in five years, and shifted further to a focus purely on banking with the IPO of NN Group, its former insurance subsidiary.

Bank of America Merrill Lynch won the award for best investment bank in Western Europe. It managed many innovative and complex transactions, such as hybrid, bank capital and green bonds.

It was also involved in some of the biggest stock offerings and M&A deals in the year, such as the €4.3 billion IPO of Spanish airports operator Aena and Vivendi’s €23.4 billion sale of SFR to Altice-Numericable in the French telecommunications sector.

Other investment banking award winners included HSBC, which retained the award for best debt house. The award for best equity house in the region marked a resurgent franchise at UBS. The Swiss bank rose to first in Dealogic’s league table of equity bookrunners in the year to end-March. Lazard was best M&A house, advising on an exceptionally large number of deals, as well as many of the biggest. Its M&A league-table market share increased to more than 20%.

Other country-level best bank winners also staged post-crisis recoveries, cutting costs and bringing down bad debts. Many have outperformed rivals thanks to refocusing on strengths, often in their home markets.

Lloyds Banking Group falls into this category, winning the best bank award in the UK for the third consecutive year, as its asset quality improved further, and it lent more to UK households and businesses.

In Germany, Commerzbank took back the best bank award after a break of several years. A dramatic increase in net profit, and a growing market share in the Mittelstand segment of German business customers, characterized its achievements.

"Commerzbank has been successful in persuading investors that it has taken the necessary steps to restructure its business," notes Euromoney. "Its results are suggestive of a bank with momentum."

Crédit Agricole is a new winner for the best bank award in France, where it saw strong growth in home loans and financing to SMEs. Its revenue and profitability also rose in corporate and investment banking.

"Crédit Agricole CIB has returned to form, largely thanks to refocusing on debt, and seeking to distribute more risk to institutional investors," says Euromoney. This was achieved even while the group made cost savings in retail and wholesale banking.

The winner in Italy, Intesa Sanpaolo, is also a bank with a greater domestic focus than its main rival. Its share price rallied around 25% in the year awards period.

"Intesa Sanpaolo has attracted the most positive attention from investors in Italian banks, and it is easy to see why," says Euromoney. As well as a relatively low cost base, Euromoney notes Intesa emerged as one of the continent’s best-capitalized lenders in the European Central Bank’s banking stress tests in October.

CaixaBank similarly beat rivals in Spain with much larger international businesses. CaixaBank strengthened its Spanish business this year with the acquisition of the local unit of Barclays, bringing in around half a million new customers. Its revenues and profits grew, and costs and leverage fell.

In neighbouring Portugal, Santander Totta retained the award, being the only one of the bigger banks to make a profit in 2014.

Meanwhile, as Ireland’s economy rebounded, Bank of Ireland won best bank, with lower costs and bad debts, and increases in capital and new lending.

Sales of international assets and a €1 billion private placement in July 2014 brought the tier-1 ratio at Cypriot winner Bank of Cyprus to 15.1%. It later saw its first net deposit inflows since Cyprus’s 2013 bailout. "It is no exaggeration to say Bank of Cyprus has staged an extraordinary turnaround," notes Euromoney.

In Sweden, Euromoney notes all the big banks remain well-capitalized, efficient and highly profitable. Swedbank posted particularly high return on equity and tier-1 capital, and its loan book and net income grew more rapidly than its main competitors. Its cost-to-income ratio fell to an exceptionally low 44.8% in 2014.

"The switch to digital banking channels at Swedbank has been decisive even by Swedish standards," says Euromoney.

Elsewhere in Scandinavia, DNB, Islandsbanki and Nordea retained their crowns in Norway, Iceland and Finland, respectively.

Jyske Bank was a new winner in Denmark, outshining bigger rivals thanks to what Euromoney calls "proactive moves" in retail banking, including a merger with leading Danish mortgage-specialist BRFkredit. "The merger between Jyske Bank and BRFkredit is a game-changer for Jyske," notes Euromoney.

 

Western Europe Regional Awards for Excellence

 
Best bank      Best investment bank
Best debt house  Best equity house 
Best M&A house  Best risk adviser 
Best flow house  Best transaction services house 


 

Country Awards for Excellence

               
Austria

Austria Belgium
Belgium
Cyprus Denmark


Finland
France
Germany
Greece


Iceland
Ireland
Italy
Luxembourg


The
Netherlands

Norway
Portugal
Spain


Sweden  Switzerland  UK     

NOTES TO EDITORS

A full list of winners of Euromoney’s Awards for Excellence 2015, as well as detailed citations for all of the winners, is available on our website from 23:30 BST on Thursday, July 9, at the conclusion of our Awards Dinner in London.

Euromoney’s award decisions are made by a committee of senior journalists, chaired by Euromoney’s editor, following the receipt of detailed submissions from market participants and extensive year-round research into the banking and capital markets in the region by our editors, journalists and research team.

For more information on the awards, contact:

William Powell
Deputy publisher
Euromoney
wpowell@euromoney.com

or

Clive Horwood
Editor
Euromoney
editor@euromoneyplc.com