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Best Bank

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  • It was another stellar year for First Abu Dhabi Bank (FAB), under the continued leadership of group chief executive Hana Al Rostamani.
  • Banco Santander’s headquarters are in Europe, but the centre of gravity of its operations has been drifting westward to Latin America for many years now. Over the review period, the bank posted a solid year of progress among many of its Latin American markets, which comprise Brazil, Mexico, Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, Colombia and Peru.
  • Despite the war in Ukraine, the past year has seen UniCredit operating with more of the purpose and commitment that international banks in central and eastern Europe too often lack.
  • Football clubs undergoing a period of transition often talk of needing a transfer window or two to get where they need to be. More often than not, this doesn’t work. Better-run teams continue to make clear-minded decisions that keep them ahead of the pack. Catching up is always hard to do.
  • In many African countries, Standard Bank is not as large as it would like to be. But it has a physical presence in 20 African countries and is already by far the biggest pan-African group in terms of its scale in the main sub-Saharan markets, the size of its balance sheet and its absolute profit.
  • With retail banking operations in Belgium, France, Italy and Luxembourg, BNP Paribas is the clear leader among a very small handful of European banks that have grown beyond being national champions in their home markets to serve personal customers across the continent.
  • Canada’s banking market remains as competitive as ever, but one bank stands out for the strong performance of its underlying businesses as well as for completing the standout strategic move of the period. Bank of Montreal (BMO) is Canada’s Best Bank.
  • Only the biggest and soundest of the US regional banks were able to come through the wreckage of March 2023 unbowed. None did so better than Citizens, a bank that was already consolidating two fine strategic moves at the start of the awards period and was able to consider another at its end. It wins the award for the country’s best super-regional bank.
  • Good banks do not collapse in times of turmoil. But the best banks do more than that – they are so buttressed against stress that when it strikes, they not only emerge unscathed but can act decisively in support of the whole sector. JPMorgan was that bank in March 2023, able to play that role because of its consistently superior performance.
  • BNP Paribas has a well-earned reputation for steadiness and stability. In the past year, its chief executive, Jean-Laurent Bonnafé, has also reinforced his strategic credentials with the bank’s well-timed exit from its US retail business. Today, the bank stands as the eurozone leader on the global stage and is ready to play a pivotal role in the continent’s financial development.
  • Once again, Emirates NBD walks away with the award for the Middle East’s best bank. The Dubai bank posted net profit of $3.54 billion in the full year 2022, up 40% year on year, boosted by strong returns from investment banking, treasury sales income and trade finance. It has continued that strong performance in the current year, posting a first-quarter 2023 profit of $1.63 billion, bolstered by net interest income of $1.96 billion, up 69% year on year.
  • It has been a busy few years for First Abu Dhabi Bank (FAB). A change at the top of the institution last year saw Hana Al Rostamani ascend to the position of group chief executive, the first woman to lead the bank.
  • Ecobank Transnational ticks a lot of boxes. The Togo-headquartered bank is undeniably a true regional lender, with a presence in 33 sub-Saharan African markets, from the big (Nigeria, South Africa) to the tiny (São Tomé & Principe, Guinea-Bissau).
  • BTG Pactual isn’t new to winning Euromoney’s regional awards for excellence – but previous successes have been for the bank’s investment banking franchise. This year, Euromoney recognizes BTG Pactual’s successful reversal of the orthodox model of business evolution from retail and corporate banking to investment banking.
  • Erste Group’s long-term focus on European Union states in central and southeastern Europe proved to be particularly well judged this year. Other big banks in this region now face billions of euros of losses in Russia and major headaches in managing their operations in that state. Erste is the only major regional lender with negligible direct exposure to Russia.
  • Now, hear us out. A year ago, we were griping about Citi’s decision to sell consumer businesses in a clutch of Asian markets. The only way it made sense, we argued, was if Citi put its money where its mouth is: deployed the freed capital into its wealth and institutional businesses in Asia and doubled down on that with tangible action, rather than the proceeds just drifting into some vague balance-sheet objective.
  • Banking in Europe remains a national sport, with only a handful of domestic champions also running large businesses beyond their home markets. Banco Santander is recognized as the region’s best bank this year as a reflection of its progress in moving operations in Portugal, Spain and the UK onto a single operating platform along with those in Poland, which it also includes in its Europe division.
  • For PNC Financial, the US’s inaugural best super-regional bank, 2021 was a landmark year in a decade-long national expansion under chief executive Bill Demchak.
  • Bank of America is thriving. In its home market, it has led the way in retail banking with a distinctive preferred rewards programme that offers retail customers preferential rates across a full range of products from credit cards to mortgages.
  • Celebrating its 190th anniversary this year, making it older than the confederation of Canada itself, Scotiabank has quite a heritage. So does Brian Porter, its chief executive, who has been at the firm for his whole career, stretching back to 1981. But when he took the helm in 2013, his job was to reposition a bank that might best have been described as a mini-HSBC.
  • Under the leadership of Brian Moynihan, Bank of America has become the poster child for stakeholder capitalism in banking. Shareholders benefit; previous strong underwriting and ample liquidity enabled it to grow loans strongly in the pandemic recovery; and management is confident it can weather the coming downturn.
  • It’s a sign of a well-run bank when it not only survives a pandemic largely unscathed but uses it as an opportunity to gain ground. Characteristically, DBS’s Piyush Gupta not only kept the bank on course but used the crisis to make two potentially transformative acquisitions, launch two new exchanges and think afresh about what banking should look like.
  • It was another strong year for Royal Bank of Canada (RBC), which saw increased provisioning at the start of the pandemic but had good performance throughout and is now well placed to benefit from the post-crisis recovery. Once again it is Euromoney’s choice as Canada’s best bank.
  • Not the biggest but the most profitable. That’s the strategy of Guaranty Trust Bank (GTBank) and it’s one that – with a return on average equity of 28.5% in 2020 – it is clearly achieving among its banking competitors in its home country Nigeria and also across Africa.
  • In a market of more than 5,000 banks, competition in the US is fierce. But among the clutch of sizeable regional banks, one firm has seen a remarkable transition since its IPO in 2014, under the steady leadership of chief executive Bruce Van Saun. Citizens wins the award for the US’s best bank.
  • It was the kind of year when solidity and stability mattered above all else, and Emirates NBD had both of those in spades. Under group chief executive Shayne Nelson, the Dubai-based lender is in pole position to benefit from a post-pandemic recovery, as a region of resource-rich nations, governed by ambitious leaders, seeks to diversify away from oil and gas.
  • A decade of work on reinforcing capital bases, managing bad debts, improving risk management processes and investment in technology paid off for the big regional banking groups in central and eastern Europe (CEE) during the first 12 months of the pandemic.
  • DBS retains the award for Asia’s best bank for its outstanding response to the Covid-19 crisis.
  • When David Vélez, co-founder and chief executive of Nubank, Latin America’s best bank, spoke to Euromoney in January 2021 he acknowledged just how powerful an engine the pandemic had been for the growth in digital banking. The Covid-19 lockdown led to such accelerated growth in new customer segments that the bank is seeing numbers that would have taken months or years to achieve in normal times.
  • Business diversification has proved to be a crucial asset for BNP Paribas over the past year. Relatively intact operations such as fixed income trading have provided vital props to its financial performance compared with local rivals that had made deeper cuts to those businesses pre-Covid. Post-pandemic the bank has become even more important as a financier to its western European clients. It has also moved earlier than other top-tier global banks to burnish its sustainability credentials.