Akbank was named best bank in central and eastern Europe in this year’s Euromoney Awards for Excellence, making it the first Turkish lender to win the award.
“Turkey’s banking sector remains among the most advanced and sophisticated in the emerging-market universe,” says the magazine. “Returns on equity for top-tier lenders are comfortably above banks’ cost of capital, while double-digit growth rates last year were unrivalled in most of emerging Europe.
“Nevertheless, a changing market and regulatory environment has recently presented challenges for Turkey’s banks – and, in our view, the lender that has so far responded to them most effectively has been Akbank.”
Over the past three years, the bank has responded to curbs on consumer lending by rebalancing towards more lucrative and fast-growing segments such as SMEs. An increased focus on cross-selling and capital-lite products has also helped to boost profitability while protecting Akbank’s strong capital base.
“Akbank’s combination of dynamic growth and prudent risk management has long since earned the lender a loyal following among debt investors, and is now increasingly being recognized by their equity counterparts,” says Euromoney.
In the first five months of the year, the bank’s stock surged by 19%, making Akbank the largest Turkish lender by market capitalization for the first time since March 2012.
There were fewer surprises on the investment banking side, where Citi retained its status as the house to beat in CEE. Unlike its global rivals, most of whom have a limited physical presence in CEE, the US group has close to 100 bankers on the ground in 10 countries from Poland to Kazakhstan.
“This close connection to companies and governments in the region has consistently translated into league-table leadership in recent years and the current awards period was no different,” Euromoney notes.
As well as again heading the bond market league tables, Citi also worked on landmark deals in many sectors, including as global coordinator on the $110 million London listing of Georgia Healthcare Group – the largest in CEE in the awards period – and as adviser to Naspers on its $1.2 billion acquisition of a 50.5% stake in Russian classified ad firm Avito.
While bulge-bracket banks have the edge in pure investment banking terms in CEE, the leader in terms of overall corporate exposure and activity in the region remains UniCredit, which won this year’s award for best bank for financing.
“UniCredit has large commercial banking operations in 11 countries across the region, including leading franchises in Poland, Russia and Turkey,” says Euromoney.
“Combined with a healthy appetite for putting balance sheet to work and in-depth sector expertise at group level, this has made UniCredit the leading provider of financing to CEE corporates.”
The award for best bank for advisory in CEE went to Rothschild, which acted on more M&A transactions than any other bank in the region, racking up $3 billion of league table credit from 24 deals.
“For private-sector work, Rothschild remains the go-to house in CEE,” says Euromoney. “The firm’s independent advisory services are also valued by businesses across the region in areas from debt and equity capital markets to strategy.”
The other new regional awards also produced some worthy winners in CEE.
Tinkoff Bank’s success in riding out Russia’s consumer finance collapse by virtue of its low-cost, online-only model and cutting-edge risk management earned the lender the title of best digital bank in the region.
Another Turkish lender, TEB, was named best bank for SMEs.
“SME banking is big business in Turkey and all the country’s larger lenders have devoted substantial resources to the segment,” says Euromoney. “However, the market leader in terms of investment and innovation remains sector specialist TEB.”
Best bank transformation was awarded to Citadele Banka, the Latvian lender that was reborn from the ashes of Parex Banka after the financial crisis.
“Restructured, recapitalized and regenerated, Citadele today is almost unrecognizable as the failed lender that was left after Parex’s spectacular implosion and is well-positioned to serve Latvia’s ongoing economic recovery,” says the magazine.
The country awards included several tightly fought contests in highly competitive markets.
In the Czech Republic, Ceska Sporitelna narrowly regained the best bank title. “Ceska Sporitelna gets the nod by virtue of its superior profitability and commitment to innovation,” says Euromoney.
Raiffeisen subsidiaries were well-represented among the country winners. The Austrian group’s units in Belarus, Kosovo, Russia, Serbia and Slovakia also won awards. “Raiffeisenbank Russia’s commitment to winning new business and maintaining a breakneck pace of innovation stood out,” says Euromoney.
The award for best bank in Poland went again to Bank Zachodni WBK, part of the Santander network. In Romania, however, a home-grown champion emerged as the winner.
“Banca Transilvania has raced up the sector rankings since the financial crisis and took another major step forward last year with the successful integration of Volksbank Romania,” the magazine observed.
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.