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Best Smaller Bank: AIB Group

Ireland's AIB (the initials stand for Allied Irish Banks) is small but perfectly formed. Over the years, it has acquired a number of businesses, such as Goodbody Stockbrokers and John Govett asset managers, that have rounded out the full range of its international banking and financial services.

The bank has also been expanding geographically, with obvious effects on its bottom line: more than half its profits are now generated outside Ireland. In the US it acquired 100% of First Maryland Bancorp in 1989 and it was announced earlier this year that it was to acquire US bank Dauphin Deposit Corporation in Pennsylvania for $1.36 billion - the largest acquisition ever undertaken by an Irish company. It is also seeking to expand into new markets in central Europe and Asia-Pacific - it recently acquired a 60% stake in Polish bank WBK (Wielkopolski Bank Kredytowy).

AIB employs more than 15,800 people worldwide. The company operates through three separate business divisions AIB Bank, AIB Capital Markets and the US division. The company was founded in 1966, when three banks, The Munster & Leinster Bank, The Provincial Bank and the Royal Bank of Ireland, merged. It is quoted on the Dublin, London and New York stock exchanges.

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