The Euromoney 2016 Awards for Excellence 2016 in western Europe demonstrated how the best European banks are adapting and thriving to a challenging environment.
“In a world of low growth, negative rates and rising capital charges, it is more important than ever to move away from a reliance on interest income, balance-sheet muscle and physical retail networks,” says Euromoney.
“For universal banks, it means investing in digital banking on the retail side, creating a capital and cost-efficient corporate and investment bank, developing a strong and differentiated transaction-banking operation, and building a compelling fee-generative offer for private clients.”
BNP Paribas demonstrated these qualities exceptionally well, and won the best bank award for western Europe, together with the awards for best bank for transaction services and best bank for wealth management. It was also named best bank in France and Luxembourg.
“In 2015, the French bank’s revenues were up across all business lines,” Euromoney says. “Net income excluding exceptional items rose 7% to €7.3 billion. Its tier-1 ratio rose by 60 basis points in 2015, even while it paid a dividend of 45% of earnings, bringing some much-needed cheer to bank investors.”
In investment banking, Barclays was the winner, thanks to real progress in its long-standing strategy to develop its European investment banking business. It demonstrated particular improvement in equity capital markets, while maintaining its strengths in debt capital markets and fixed income sales and trading, and making progress in advisory.
Euromoney also notes its investment bank’s commitment to delivering bottom-line growth, as it saw return on equity double in the period while profit before tax rose 16%. The British bank also won the investment-banking title in the UK.
“Rare are the examples of European firms that are not losing markets share to US rivals, even in their national home markets,” says the magazine. “That makes the progress at Barclays particularly remarkable.”
UBS was named best bank for markets after shifting to an agency model in fixed income, retaining its strengths in equities and research, developing its technology platform and gaining the biggest market share in the region in Euromoney’s 2016 foreign exchange survey. UBS also retained the award for best bank in Switzerland.
Euromoney introduced several new awards at the regional level, including best digital bank, which was claimed by ING.
“ING rightly recognises its advance in digital banking as its most valuable differentiating factor, and it focuses obsessively on building up that advantage,” Euromoney says.
Other new awards included best bank for corporate social responsibility, won by Spain’s CaixaBank, and best bank for SMEs, taken by Santander after demonstrating what Euromoney said was a concerted and often forward-looking push in SME financing in its UK, Spanish and Portuguese units.
ABN Amro was named the best bank transformation in the year after its landmark IPO and, after a decade-long recovery, its move to what Euromoney says is a well-defined and efficient business model. It also won best bank and best investment bank in the Netherlands.
“ABN Amro has an approach that investors highly appreciate, and from the depths of despair, at the end of the awards period it had a valuation close to book value – almost unheard of in Europe – with a 2015 return on equity of 12% and tier-1 capital of 15.5%,” Euromoney explains.
The country awards saw several other new winners, often staging transformations to rival that of the Dutch champion.
In Austria, private equity-owned Bawag PSK won best bank. Belgium saw its biggest bank, KBC, return to the top spot, as did Denmark with Danske Bank. In Ireland, Allied Irish Banks claimed the best bank award from long-time winner Bank of Ireland.
Other changes to the best bank country winners included BBVA in Spain and Nordea in Sweden. Nordea retained its best bank in Finland title and won best investment bank in Denmark. Bank of Cyprus retained its overall best bank award in its domestic market, as did Commerzbank in Germany, Intesa Sanpaolo in Italy, Islandsbanki in Iceland, DNB in Norway, Santander Totta in Portugal, UBS in Switzerland and Lloyds Banking Group in the UK.
Arion Bank, Carnegie, Credit Suisse and Société Générale won the best investment bank titles in their home countries. Citi demonstrated the spread of its regional business with best investment bank awards in Spain, Finland, Norway and Greece, where it helped best bank Alpha Bank restructure and raise capital. Bank of America Merrill Lynch won best investment bank in Germany.
About the Awards for Excellence
The Euromoney Awards for Excellence, launched in 1992 and now in its 25th year, were the first of their kind in the global financial publishing industry. The nature of the banking industry is changing, and this year we have made fundamental changes to the categories in our Awards for Excellence to reflect this.
The main purposes of these changes are: to move away from awards based on individual product categories where other determinants of status and ability are readily available; to focus on banks/investment banks that can demonstrate an ability to deliver the different parts of their firms to meet clients’ needs and adapt to market and regulatory conditions, and to consider candidates for these awards that might not be global in scale, but are truly world class in the way they are run and in the services they deliver to clients.
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. Euromoney’s Awards for Excellence cover global categories, best-in-class awards in all regions and the best banks in close to 100 countries around the world.