World’s Best SME Banks 2024—Global Winners

Unlocking the hidden value of their numbers is the next step for SMEs.

As the global economy continues to limp along, small and midsize enterprises (SMEs) will keep facing an uphill climb in 2024—whatever corner of the world they happen to occupy. The International Monetary Fund forecasts that GDP growth in emerging and developing economies will fall to 4% in 2023 from 4.1% in 2022 and remain at 4% in 2024, while GDP in advanced economies will drop to 1.5% this year from 2022’s 2.6% and to 1.4% in 2024.

SMEs can expect to face stronger headwinds in a sluggish economy than their larger brethren. Large corporations tend to have balance sheets that can weather the knock-on effects of such challenges as the Russia-Ukraine war, the current Middle East conflict, rising energy prices, tighter monetary policies, and governments’ cessation of pandemic support measures. For SMEs, stingier capital markets and the breakdown of open trade in favor of national self-reliance in many economies are making growth even more difficult.

This does not bode well for the global economy. Approximately 99% of businesses worldwide are SMEs, representing 60% of the business value-add, according to the OECD October 2023 SME and Entrepreneurship Outlook Polixy report. Small and midsize businesses are critical “to drive a resilient, inclusive and sustainable recovery,” the report’s authors warn.

Closing the Digital Divide

One of the most important lessons the pandemic has taught businesses is the necessity of digitalization: from improving online and mobile access for clients to virtualizing their organization’s infrastructure. Social media and cloud computing have become mainstream for most SMEs, the OECD report’s authors note, with use of the latter doubling in the past six years.

Unlocking the value hidden in the data will be critical. A World Economic Forum survey of 111 SMEs in 42 countries and 21 sectors found that “74% struggle to maximize the value of their company’s data investments.” More than half of those polled (55%) experienced difficulty finding data, and slightly fewer (54%) had difficulty maintaining their data.

“The greatest acceleration in digital diffusion in recent years has been in the conduct of big data analysis—albeit from low levels—and the purchase of cloud computing services,” says Sandrine Kergroach, head of SME and Entrepreneurship Performance, Policies and Mainstreaming at the OECD Centre for Entrepreneurship in a 2021 OECD report. “The adoption of business intelligence and supply chain management software have progressed little, especially among the smallest firms.”

Yet, the development of open banking standards, the sharing of application programming interfaces (APIs), and the rise of the sharing economy have begun to increase the value of SMEs’ internal data. That makes selecting the proper banking partner more critical than ever.

Firms need to balance access to the cheapest capital against the value-add of the technologies and other services banks can provide. This year’s World’s Best SME Bank Awards recognize those financial institutions that stand head and shoulders above their competitors in serving their SME client base.      —Robert Daly

Methodology: Behind The Rankings

The editors of Global Finance, with input from industry analysts, corporate executives and technology experts, selected the winners of the World’s Best SME Banks 2024 based on a mix of objective and subjective factors. Editors consulted entries submitted by the banks and the results of independent research. Entries were not required.

Judges considered performance from April 1, 2022, to March 31, 2023. Global Finance then applied a proprietary algorithm to shorten the list of contenders and arrive at a numerical score of up to 100. The algorithm weights a range of criteria for relative importance, including knowledge of SME markets and their needs, breadth of products and services, market standing and innovation.

Once the judges narrowed the field, they applied the final criteria, including scope of global coverage, size and experience of staff, customer service, risk management, range of products and services, execution skills and use of technology. In the case of a tie, the judges lean toward local providers rather than global institutions. The panel also tends to favor private-sector banks over government-owned institutions. The winners are those banks and providers that best serve the specialized needs of SMEs.

BTG Pactual Empresas Earns Its Laurels

For the second year running, the Brazilian digital bank BTG Pactual Empresas has swept the Best SME Bank awards for Brazil, Latin America, and the world. The bank has eased access to capital for micro, small, and midsize enterprises (MSMEs), representing approximately 90% of Brazilian companies.

Clients get a low-touch digital channel, available 24/7, that nevertheless provides a high-touch experience using open banking standards and Brazil’s PIX instant payment system. For example, BTG Pactual Empresas has shortened the time needed to obtain credit to about 30 minutes for clients participating in rural credit programs, solar-power and green financing, and women-owned businesses. Newly opened SME accounts are operable within an hour.

Once an SME account is open, account owners can export their banking data to standard spreadsheets, Microsoft Excel and Google Sheets, and enterprise resource planning (ERP) applications, instantly reconciling accounts in their ERP systems.

BTG Pactual Empresas provides such additional services as single-sign-on multiuser and multibusiness accounts, online invoicing, collection management, budgeting capabilities, foreign currency exchange and digital receipts, along with payroll, insurance, and tax and investment services. Clients can reach expert support any time via chat, email, WhatsApp and toll-free calling.       —RD

Best SME Bank Awards 2024
Global  Winner
Best SME Bank in the World BTG Pactual Empresas
Country & Territory Winners
Argentina  Banco Nación 
Armenia  Evocabank 
Austria  Erste Group Bank 
Bahrain  Ahli United Bank 
Bangladesh  Prime Bank 
Belgium  BNP Paribas Fortis 
Brazil  BTG Pactual Empresas 
Cameroon  Societe Generale 
Canada  Royal Bank of Canada 
Chile  Banco Santander Chile 
Colombia  Bancolombia 
Cote d’Ivoire  Bridge Bank 
Czech Republic  CSOB 
Denmark  Spar Nord Bank 
Dominican Republic  Banreservas 
Ecuador  Produbanco 
Egypt  CIB 
France  Banque Populaire and Caisse d’Epargne 
Georgia  TBC Bank 
Germany  Commerzbank 
Ghana  UBA 
Greece  Alpha Bank 
Hong Kong  Hang Seng Bank 
Hungary  OTP Bank 
India  HDFC Bank 
Indonesia  OCBC 
Ireland  Bank of Ireland 
Italy  Banco BPM 
Japan  Sumimoto Mitsui Financial Group 
Jordan  Arab Bank
Kazakhstan  ATF Bank 
Kenya  Co-operative Bank 
Kuwait  National Bank of Kuwait 
Kyrgyzstan  Optima Bank 
Malaysia  Maybank 
Mauritius  Bank One 
Mexico  Banorte 
Moldova  MAIB 
Mongolia  Khan Bank 
Morocco  Societe Generale 
Mozambique  UBA Bank 
Netherlands  Rabobank 
Nigeria  UBA 
Norway  Handelsbanken Norway 
Peru  Banco de Crédito del Perú 
Philippines  Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI) 
Poland  BNP Paribas Bank Polska 
Portugal Puerto Rico  Santander Totta
Puerto Rico  Banco Popular de Puerto Rico  
Qatar  Qatar Development Bank 
Saudi Arabia  Arab National Bank 
Singapore  OCBC 
South Africa  FNB 
South Korea  Industrial Bank of Korea 
Spain  Santander 
Sri Lanka  Commercial Bank of Ceylon 
Sweden  SEB 
Switzerland  UBS 
Taiwan  E.Sun Bank 
Tanzania  NMB Bank 
Thailand  Siam Commercial Bank 
Turkey  Isbank 
UAE  Mashreq 
United Kingdom  Lloyds Bank 
United States  Bank of America 
Uzbekistan  Asia Alliance Bank 
Vietnam  Vietcombank 
Uzbekistan Asia Alliance Bank
Vietnam Vietcombank