Europe’s new national banking champions
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Europe’s new national banking champions

For European banks, the days when a lack of big international operations was seen as a weakness are gone. Nowadays, some of the continent’s biggest and most successful banks are using large market shares in a single market in increasingly profitable ways – setting an example for bigger peers. Euromoney asks their CEOs how they are doing it.


Illustration: Paul Daviz

Europe has a new breed of national financial champions. Unlike the state-backed champions of the past, these banks are not trying to conquer foreign lands. On the contrary, their greater concentration on home markets is leading to healthier profitability and leverage, and making them less likely to need bailouts in the future. And as regulations increase the cost of banking across multiple jurisdictions – let alone competing as a global investment bank – this renewed focus on home is a thread that runs through the strategies of Euromoney’s best bank winners of 2015 in all six of the biggest western European economies. Whether it is Commerzbank in Germany, Lloyds in the UK, Crédit Agricole in France, Intesa Sanpaolo in Italy, CaixaBank in Spain, or ING in the Netherlands, they are all emphasizing their core retail and commercial banking markets. 

Their rise is in some ways reminiscent of when the US began to emerge from crisis – that of Wells Fargo. That bank’s domestic business accounts for more than 90% of its total. Some of its peers across the Atlantic have sought to emulate it. 

Two years ago, Wells Fargo became the world’s biggest bank by market capitalization, despite not being in the top 20 by assets.

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