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The hidden gems of European banking

For many years the accepted wisdom in global banking has been that bigger is better. The full-service banks dismiss smaller competitors, saying that to succeed in modern finance you need to offer all things to all clients. And yet a number of European banks continue to demonstrate success in their chosen specialist fields. Peter Koh profiles the financial institutions that prove you don’t have to be everywhere and everything in the world to be a world-class operation.

HSH Nordbank: God’s gift to shipping

Saxo bank: Building on a bright idea

A world-wide local business: Rabobank

Smarter than bigger rivals: SEB

The world’s internet banker: ING Direct


THE TOP 10 banks in equity capital markets today command a global market share of more than 50%. A look at the broad league tables of bookrunners for bond deals or M&A advisory over the years will paint a similar picture of a growing consolidation of market share among the top tier banks. Pretty much the same picture emerges in the rankings of market share for fixed income and equity trading, and in FX too. In almost all areas of banking it seems that the world’s largest banks are tightening their grip and squeezing out smaller rivals.

Yet the broad picture obscures the fact that there are many smaller banks, particularly in Europe, that are succeeding in carving out strong niche businesses in which they not only give the world’s biggest banks a run for their money but beat them too.

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