World’s Best Banks 2012: Regional Winners

By Gordon Platt, Thomas Clouse, Jonathan Gregson & Antonio Guerrero

Regional Winners


JPMorgan Chase


JPMorgan Chase is the top US bank by assets. “For America’s largest companies, we raised or lent over $720 billion of capital in the first six months to help them build and expand around the world,” Jamie Dimon, chairman and CEO, said. The bank suffered a loss of more than $5 billion from its Chief Investment Office in the UK, where traders made a series of losing derivatives trades. “CIO will no longer trade a synthetic credit portfolio and will focus on its core mandate of conservatively investing excess deposits to earn a fair return,” Dimon said. The bank ranked number one in global investment banking fees in the first half of 2012.

—Jamie Dimon, chairman and CEO



With more than half of its revenues coming from Latin America and a good portion from non-eurozone countries like the UK and Poland, Santander is able to bolster required regulatory ratios through a combination of retained earnings from abroad and asset sales in more buoyant European markets. On that basis, it plans not only to meet the European Banking Authority’s minimum 9% core Tier 1 capital ratio, but also to exceed it by nearly a percentage point. And despite an adverse economic scenario across most of Europe, Santander is still making strategic acquisitions in its 10 core markets. “The challenges facing banks in mature markets are well known: low demand for loans, economies under pressure, low-interest-rate environments and high cost of liquidity,” CEO Alfredo Sáenz says. “We believe, however, that the leading banks in these markets have a great opportunity to create value in the medium term.”

—Alfredo Sáenz, CEO



SEB has a strong relationship focus on large Scandinavian corporates. Nordic countries proved resilient to the shocks emanating from Southern Europe. This resilience, in turn, benefited regional banks, and none more than SEB, whose regional operations posted markedly improved results. “Our direction is firm: We prioritize long-term customer relations and disciplined growth in targeted markets while maintaining a high degree of resilience in a changing regulatory landscape as well as in a difficult economic environment,” Annika Falkengren, president and CEO, says.
—Annika Falkengren, president and CEO


Raiffeisen Bank International

RBI has built up a strategic presence in no less than 15 CEE countries. Because it is so focused on CEE markets, it was less exposed to problems elsewhere in Europe. And while it had to make write-downs in Kazakhstan and Ukraine, elsewhere RBI banks performed well, with loans to customers up nearly 8% last year and deposits up by 15%. “These increased volumes show that we have an important role in extending loans to the economies in Austria and Central and Eastern Europe and provide proof that depositors focus on trust during times of crisis,” CEO Herbert Stepic observes. RBI’s consolidated earnings year-on-year rose by 13.9% in the first half.

—Herbert Stepic, chief executive officer


Banco Santander

Strong profits throughout its Latin American network again helped Santander, the eurozone’s largest bank by market value, offset hefty declines on the home front. Latin American operations contributed 51% of the group’s profits last year. Brazil alone contributed 28% of profits, and Mexican operations reported profit growth attributable to local operations of 40.9%. Santander sold its Colombian banking operations for $1.2 billion in 2011 and decided to sell a share of its Chilean business, in moves the bank says were aimed at increasing shareholder value. It increased lending by 18% year-on-year and entered into a strategic alliance with insurer Zurich to jointly develop business in the region, leading to a €641 million ($840 million) capital gain in 2011.
—Emilio Botín, chairman


Standard Chartered

Asia is now a top priority for all global banks, but Standard Chartered laid the groundwork for its success there long before the region became the hot spot for global growth. The UK-based bank has grown steadily across the region for decades. The bank has employed creative methods to reach underserved small and medium-size enterprises (SMEs). It uses its global reach to help smaller companies expand into foreign markets. Standard Chartered derives more than 75% of its profit from Asia. “Our performance has shown that we are in the right markets with the right strategy, and have the right leadership in place to deliver consistent value for our shareholders,” chief executive Peter Sands said.

—Peter Sands, group chief executive


National Bank of Kuwait

NBK is a leading regional bank with operations in 16 countries, including 10 in the Middle East. It has consistently been the top bank in Kuwait in terms of market share, profitability and asset quality. NBK earned more than $1 billion in 2011 for the second year in a row. Despite the ongoing turmoil in regional markets and the stagnant operating environment in Kuwait, NBK’s ratio of nonperforming loans declined to 1.55% at the end of last year from 1.65% a year earlier. “NBK’s resilient performance over the years affirms our strong earnings capabilities, prudent risk management and clear strategic direction,” says Ibrahim Dabdoub, group chief executive of NBK.

—Ibrahim Dabdoub, group CEO



Togo’s Ecobank is one of the fastest-growing and most innovative banking groups in Africa. It is present in 32 of Africa’s 55 countries, far more than any other bank. The bank is now shifting its focus from geographic expansion to consolidating its presence in key markets. “With Africa’s financial services sector projected to grow at a compounded annual rate of 15% between now and 2020, the main challenge facing Ecobank now is to ensure the necessary infrastructure is in place to support that growth,” says Arnold Ekpe, group CEO.

—Arnold Ekpe, group CEO

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