The US banking industry has recovered from the financial crisis and is functioning relatively normally, although mortgage lending has only recently begun to pick up. Canadian banks, which were less challenged by the crisis, are continuing to perform well despite a sluggish domestic economy. There are areas of concern, however, as banks loosen their lending standards and net interest margins remain tight.

The US Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and other banking regulators have warned of serious deficiencies in leveraged lending, particularly for commercial real estate. Nevertheless, the Federal Reserve says the big US banks have sufficient capital on hand to withstand a drastic economic downturn.

There were 291 banks on the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation’s problem list at the end of 2014, down from 888 at the peak in March 2011. A majority of banks reported higher operating revenues and improved earnings in 2014 from a year earlier. However, total industry earnings declined slightly as a result of legal fees at a few large banks.

Regional Winner | Wells Fargo

Wells Fargo, the world’s largest bank by market capitalization, has benefited from conservative risk-management policies and a diversified business model. The bank’s revenue is balanced between net interest income and fee-based income. Wells Fargo earned a record $23.1 billion in 2014, a 5% increase from a year earlier. From its San Francisco base, the bank has expanded to become a nationwide financial institution. While most of its assets are in the US, Wells Fargo now operates in 36 countries.

Wells Fargo is using its sustained earnings strength to return more capital to shareholders. It purchased 87 million of its shares on a net basis last year. The bank’s credit losses have remained near historic lows, while nonperforming loans have declined. Wells Fargo leads all US banks in small-business lending, home mortgage customers, auto lending, agriculture-related loans and commercial real estate financing. It focuses on what it calls the “real economy,” rather than on trading and speculative activities.

Wells Fargo, long a leader in international trade finance, is the largest import factor worldwide. Its supply-chain finance unit offers products to large corporations and their trading partners to help manage cash flow and increase market share.

John Stumpf, chairman and CEO

Bermuda | Butterfield Bank

Butterfield Bank reported strong earnings in Bermuda and the Cayman Islands last year, and expanded its core businesses in the Caribbean and Europe, while reducing its non-accrual loan balances. Butterfield acquired parts of the corporate and retail banking business of HSBC in the Cayman Islands for $800 million. It also acquired Legis Group’s trust and corporate services business in Guernsey. The well-capitalized bank offers trust services in Bermuda, the Bahamas, the Cayman Islands, Guernsey and Switzerland.

Brendan McDonagh, chairman and CEO

Canada | TD Bank Group

Toronto-based TD Canada Trust (the group’s Canadian unit) is the highest-rated bank in Canada, and its affiliate, TD Bank, is one of the 10 largest banks in the US. In the three months ended January 1, 2015, its first quarter, the bank posted strong retail earnings on both sides of the US-Canadian border. Its Canadian retail operations earned $1.4 billion in the quarter, an increase of 8% from the same period a year earlier. TD enjoyed good loan and deposit growth despite a challenging economic environment. In wholesale banking, fee-based revenue declined on lower industrywide volumes. TD recently became the first major bank in Canada to offer SMS-based (text message) customer service.

Bharat Masrani, president and CEO

United States | Wells Fargo

With more than 8,700 locations in 38 states, Wells Fargo is the leading bank for US middle-market companies that have annual revenue of more than $20 million, as well as for small businesses. Its recent expansion has centered on urban and suburban markets in the eastern US. The bank’s overall deposits rose 8% last year to a record $1.2 trillion. A likely rise in US interest rates and an improving economy portend future gains for Wells Fargo, which derives most of its revenue from the US. Credit losses declined by 35% last year, while net charge-offs fell to 0.35% of average loans.

John Stumpf, chairman and CEO



European banks are scrambling to benefit from rapidly changing consumer habits, notably the switch to Internet and mobile banking. New technologies such as biometrics and voice recognition are now central to raising the customer experience to a new level, and most leading banks are developing multichannel relationships with their customers. This also allows for branch closures and other long-term cost efficiencies.

At the same time, more banks have moved from deleveraging and shrinking their balance sheets toward expanding the loan book. After five years of strengthening their capital buffers—there was a rash of share issues and capital raising ahead of the ECB’s stress tests—they are now in a more confident, expansionist mood. And while previously customer demand has been weak, Europeans’ appetite for loans seems to be strengthening, thanks to the central banks’ adopting an ultra-loose monetary policy.

Geopolitical risks remain, as banks with exposures to Greece, Russia and Ukraine know only too well. But across most of Europe business conditions are improving.



ING posted a strong set of 2014 results and moved further down the road towards its goal of empowering its customers through innovative systems and products, these forming part of a seamless multichannel offering supported by simplified and more-cost-efficient processes.

It also successfully shed more noncore businesses, made the final repayment of its bailout funding to the Dutch state and reinstated the dividend. Chief executive officer Ralph Hamers notes that ING “comfortably passed the ECB’s latest comprehensive assessment” and that “the outcome reflects our strong capital position and resilient balance sheet” (the bank’s Tier 1 capital ratio rose from 10.4% to 11% fully loaded). Underlying net profit was up by 8.5% to more than €3.4 billion ($3.6 billlion), driven by higher net interest income and lower risk costs.

Vice chairman Koos Timmermans adds that “in 2014 we introduced initiatives to help people gain a better insight into their finances. We also supported customers’ financial needs as well as SMEs’ and large companies’ growth with €15 billion of new lending.”

Ralph Hamers, CEO and chariman

Andorra | MoraBanc

Family-owned MoraBanc claims to be the most solvent of the five private banks operating in the Pyrenean principality, where a recent scandal over money laundering prompted CEO Pedro González to comment “from not knowing where Andorra was, within nanoseconds global markets were able to discriminate.” His own bank was recently rated A- by Fitch and, according to the latest figures available, had €6.7 billion of assets under management, generating a return on assets of 1.9%.

Pedro González Grau, CEO

Austria | Erste Bank

Austria’s largest customer-facing banking group (thanks to its extensive network of Sparkassen branches), Erste Bank grew its customer base by 2% and extended 2.5% more loans last year than in the previous. Interest income went up by 10% to nearly €1.6 billion, while commission income was up by 7.7% on the back of increased contributions from its securities and insurance businesses, as well as enhanced fees associated with new lending. Customer deposits rose by 1.3%, but with low interest rates still in effect, many customers switched into Erste’s “You Invest” managed fund, which booked strong inflows. Corporate lending grew by 4.1% on increased demand, costs were contained, and this fed through to operating earnings of €947 million—an increase of 16% on the previous year’s result.

Andreas Treichl, CEO and chairman

Belgium | ING

ING Belgium again performed strongly on the back of volume growth and improved margins on both lending and savings products. Total underlying income rose by 7.3% to €2.5 billion, net interest income rose by 8.6%, and the bank’s lending portfolio grew by €5.1 billion. Underlying pretax profit rose from €663 million in 2013 to €844 million. In a country that leads the way toward being a cashless society, ING Belgium’s award-winning Smart Banking app for tablets is immensely popular and has been downloaded 800,000 times, while a new app for private banking customers combines portfolio reporting with a secured Web repository of market information.

Rik Vandenberghe, CEO

Cyprus | Hellenic Bank

Since the Cypriot banking crisis, Hellenic has gone further than most of its peers in rebuilding its balance sheet and strengthening its capital buffers. A successful rights issue last November raised more than €200 million, and the bank is now close to passing stress targets even in an adverse economic scenario. The core Tier 1 ratio stood at 13.5% at year-end. Nonperforming loans have stabilized, and although provisioning for impairments was down, the level of coverage improved to 48%. Underlying businesses are performing well, with customer deposits up by 15%. Before provisioning, the bank’s operating profit increased by 22% to €158 million, but after write-downs it recorded a loss of €119 million. With good liquidity, the bank is committed to assisting in the recovery of the Cypriot economy in 2015 by extending its lines of credit to viable businesses and households.

Bert Pijls, CEO

France | Crédit Mutuel

This federation of mutual banks had another very solid year in 2014, with net income up 11.4% to just over €3 billion thanks to a combination of strong sales and rigorous cost controls. Despite the prevailing low-interest rate environment, overall savings rose by 6.9% and customer deposits rose as well, by 4.8%. The bank grew its loan portfolio by 4.3%. Widely considered France’s safest bank, Crédit Mutuel further strengthened its balance sheet, ending the year with a Tier 1 capital ratio of 15.5%. The bank emphasizes the relationship of trust with its members and customers, and a recent survey put it at the head of banks preferred by French nationals. Technology remains central to its growth strategy, and it has recently upped its online presence using social networks, notably an after-sales service to answer customer questions via Facebook and Twitter

Michel Lucas, group chairman

Germany | DZ Bank

Germany’s largest cooperative financial network, DZ Bank Group put in an impressive performance last year. Profit before tax of €2.9 billion was an all-time high and represents an increase of nearly 30% year-on-year. CEO Wolfgang Kirsch acknowledged this strong result outstripped expectations and attributed this to “a good operating performance … fostered by factors such as the robust economy in our German home market and the comparatively relaxed situation in the capital markets.”  This allowed the bank to strengthen its capital ratios significantly, and the core Tier 1 capital ratio now stands at 12.2%. Kirsch warned that this year’s earnings are more likely to be “in keeping with our inherent profitability.” The bank plans to continue to defend its market position through innovative and customer-friendly procedures.

Wolfgang Kirsch, CEO

Greece | Piraeus Bank

In a difficult year for the country and its financial sector, Piraeus Bank achieved a profit of more than €1 billion before tax and provisions. This partly reflects continued cost-cutting, with an overall 12% reduction in operating expenses, excluding one-off integration costs. Staff costs were down 20% year-on-year, excluding the impact of voluntary exit schemes. However, revenues also rose, with net fees and commissions income up 5% on a recurring annual basis. By the final quarter operating revenues were showing 3% growth. Deleveraging has continued while nonperforming loans have trended downward, and coverage has improved significantly, although—like other Greek banks—Piraeus has suffered recently from deposit withdrawals. Its Basel III capital adequacy ratio stands at an acceptable 12.5%.

Stavros Lekkakos, CEO

Ireland | Bank of Ireland

Ireland’s most strongly capitalized lender achieved an underlying profit of €921 million in 2014 with all trading divisions profitable—an improvement of nearly €1.5 billion over the previous, loss-making year. The bank increased its new lending by more than 50%, while net interest margins rose above 2% over the year. Overall, the cost/income ratio fell again, but at 55% it is still relatively high, and more improvements can be made. However, the turnaround in Ireland’s economy has helped reduce the legacy of bad or impaired loans, so that over the year defaulted loans decreased by an additional  €2.8 billion. They are now more than 20% below peak levels. Having passed the ECB stress tests, Bank of Ireland remains the country’s strongest bank, with a fully loaded Tier 1 capital ratio of 9.3%. CEO Richie Boucher points out that the bank has to date returned some €6 billion to Irish taxpayers, considerably more than the €4.8 billion bailout, and is the largest investor in Ireland’s economy.

Richie Boucher, CEO

Italy | Intesa Sanpaolo

Italy’s market leader put in a strong performance in 2014. Pretax revenues of €3.4 billion were 36% up on the previous year, with all parts of the banking group showing improvement. Banca dei Territori, its largest division, moved from a €239 million loss in 2013 to contribute more than €1.6 billion. Income from private banking and insurance grew by 12.4% and 23.7% respectively, while the sizable but capital-light asset management business increased its contribution by close to 35% and is likely to benefit further from QE’s beneficial impact on European bourses. Overall operating margins improved by 5%, net interest income by 3% and fees and commission by 10.5% in 2013—the best result since before the financial crisis. The bank is simplifying its branch network, developing more electronic channels, such as its new e-commerce portal, and continues to bear down on costs.  Its cost/income ratio of 50.6% is better than that of most of its peers. And it is probably the most strongly capitalized of Italian banks: Having taken the hit on impaired loans, it scored highly in the ECB’s stress tests.

Luxembourg | Banque et Caisse d’Epargne de l’Etat

Luxembourg’s most popular bank—it has a banking relationship with more than two-thirds of all residents in the Grand Duchy—BCEE had a good year despite the general slowing of the economy. Group net income rose by 16.1% to nearly €170 million in the first half of 2014, and fee income by 3.2%. Judged one of the world’s safest banks, BCEE has continued to reinforce its shareholder equity by a further 12% to nearly €4 billion and has a core Tier 1 ratio of 15.38%. The bank continued to grow its range of focused products and service offerings with the launch of the axxess savings account for clients  between 18 and 30, and its Fit4Future savings account, which aims to help young people build a start-up capital sum.

Jean-Claude Finck, CEO and president

Malta | FCM Bank

Fast-growing FCM saw a 55% increase in the number of its accounts last year. It was also a high-performing year in terms of deposits, which increased by 36% to over €23 million. This was achieved by consistently offering competitive interest rates while spending less on banking infrastructure and marketing. Overall, the cost per account was reduced by 41%. Operating only in the highly competitive Maltese marketplace, FCM focused on innovation, offering the only savings account giving customers a bonus after 12 months. Much emphasis is placed on customer rapport.

Ron Huggett, CEO

Netherlands | ING

The Dutch retail bank recorded an underlying pretax profit of more than €888 million, an improvement of 6.5% on the previous year, on the back of a 6.8% rise in net interest income and lower risk costs .The rapid move to digitalization raised operating costs, both through higher IT spend and provisioning for redundancies, though these will result in future cost savings. Risk costs declined by 18.6% as a gradual economic recovery benefits both mortgage and business lending. The bank has increased transparency right across its product range so as to enable customers to make clearer choices and has introduced a seamless service across all banking channels, allowing customers to switch between channels without interruption to their data. And with the pilot launch of “Inge,” a voice recognition feature that listens and responds to simple instructions, customers can do their banking by talking to their mobile or tablet.

Nick Jue, CEO

Portugal | Banco Santander Totta

Portugal’s best-capitalized bank, Santander Totta gained market share in 2014, as the number of new mortgage loans granted increased by 18% in a more dynamic marketplace. Corporate lending also rose 0.7%, a good showing against a general background of companies deleveraging. Deposits grew by 5.6%, and net interest income increased by 6.2% to €546 million. This growth in recurring business combined with lower costs of credit and impairments to boost net income by 89.2% to €193 million—though this includes a substantial gain in the last quarter from the sale of 51% of the bank’s life and nonlife insurance portfolios. The bank’s core Tier I ratio stood at a comfortable 13.3%.

António Vieira Monteiro, chairman

Spain | CaixaBank

Already the largest bank in its domestic market, with a customer base of 13.4 million at year-end 2014, in January of this year CaixaBank gained a further half-million customers through its acquisition of UK lender Barclays’ retail, asset management and corporate banking businesses in Spain. Net interest income increased by more than 5%, as did customer deposits, and overall income before loan impairments more than doubled. The bank continues to pursue its multichannel banking strategy successfully, with over half of all transactions now through e-channels and only 8% in branch. Its Linea Abierta is Spain’s leading online banking system, gaining a third of all users, while its mobile platform, CaixaMóvil, handled 750 million transactions for some four million customers. CaixaBank also became the world’s first bank to develop an app for smartwatches. La Caixa foundation is the leading private foundation in Spain and the second-largest in Europe in terms of grants, with around €500 million awarded annually.

Gonzalo Gortázar, CEO

Switzerland | UBS

UBS’s net profit increased last year by 13%, topping SFr 3.6 billion ($3.7 billion), although CEO Sergio Ermotti acknowledged that January’s surprise decision by the central bank to abandon the cap on the Swiss franc would negatively impact this year’s earnings.  The rise in profitability was spread across divisions, with both wealth management and retail & corporate banking up by 4%, while earnings from investment banking were 8% stronger. Cost-cutting continues, with plans to reduce spending by moving IT and other functions to less costly centers. UBS continued to reduce risk-weighted assets and improve its leverage ratio. Its core Tier 1 capital ratio stood at over 13% at the year’s end, exceeding targets and coming out best among its peer groups. Ermotti commented that “our capital is strong and we’ve completed our strategic transformation, preparing us well for the future.”

Sergio Ermotti, CEO

United Kingdom | Lloyds Banking Group

Being a strongly UK-facing retail and commercial bank helped Lloyds lift its underlying profit by 26% to £7.8 billion ($11.5 billion), and the bank is paying a dividend for the first time since it was bailed out during the financial crisis. The result reflects the group’s success in shedding noncore activities and cutting its cost base by a further 2%, so that the cost/income ratio comes out at a competitive 51%, thanks to a combination of improved asset quality and lower impairment charges. Net interest income rose by 8% on improved margins, the return on risk-weighted assets increased to above 3%, and the bank continued to strengthen its capital buffers. The result: Its core Tier 1 capital ratio improved by 2.5% to 12.8%, after accounting for the dividend. Lloyds built on its market leadership in key lending segments, with new mortgages up by 13% and lending to midsize corporates and SMEs up by 2% and 5%, respectively. Most competitor banks saw a downturn in lending to such companies. The focus is on digital-based growth—the number of active online customers has rocketed, and Lloyds is investing a further £1 billion on upgrading capabilities and developing new products, such as its recently launched online car finance platform.

António Horta-Osório, group CEO



European banks are scrambling to benefit from rapidly changing consumer habits, notably the switch to Internet and mobile banking. New technologies such as biometrics and voice recognition are now central to raising the customer experience to a new level, and most leading banks are developing multichannel relationships with their customers. This also allows for branch closures and other long-term cost efficiencies.

At the same time, more banks have moved from deleveraging and shrinking their balance sheets toward expanding the loan book. After five years of strengthening their capital buffers—there was a rash of share issues and capital raising ahead of the ECB’s stress tests—they are now in a more confident, expansionist mood. And while previously customer demand has been weak, Europeans’ appetite for loans seems to be strengthening, thanks to the central banks’ adopting an ultra-loose monetary policy.

Geopolitical risks remain, as banks with exposures to Greece, Russia and Ukraine know only too well. But across most of Europe business conditions are improving.


Regional Winner | Raiffeisen Bank International

CEO Karl Sevelda notes that “RBI operates a strong business model and franchise in the CEE and in 2014 operated profitable banks in 12 of 15 CEE markets. It also sets the bar in many of its markets for standards of service and innovation, most notably in Slovakia. But the geopolitical crisis in Ukraine called for an increase of about €412 million in provisioning for impairment losses, accounting for most of the €567 increased provisioning across the group. Net interest income rose by 2%. Sevelda points out that “the bank kept its earnings at a high level while reducing costs by 10%.” After more than €1.7 billion of provisions (a 49% increase) and an €251 million one-off legislative charge in Hungary, RBI remained profitable—although the pretax result dropped from €835 million to €23 million. The bank’s common equity Tier I capital ratio rose by 0.2% to 10.9%. RBI’s adapted strategy will, says Sevelda, “further strengthen its capital position, improve its risk profile, and reduce complexity as well as costs.”

Karl Sevelda, CEO

Albania | Banka Kombëtare Tregtare

The country’s oldest financial institution enjoyed a good year in 2014, with net profits rising to just about $44 million, compared with $39.3 million the previous year. The bank also strengthened it’s capital buffers, the key capital adequacy ratio improving from 14.5% to 15.6%. Recently declared the largest player in the Albanian banking sector, with a market share of 23%, BKT continues to expand its branch network, now totaling 88 branches.

Seyhan Pencabligil, CEO

Belarus | Belarusbank

Majority-state-owned Belarusbank is the country’s leading bank in terms of both assets ($16.7 billion) and loans ($12 billion). Despite extremely difficult trading conditions, Belarusbank’s net profits dipped only slightly last year to just over $140 million. The Belarusian bank was the first to enter the syndicated loan market in 2012. Chairman Siarhei Pisaryk commented that “the bank’s transparent and comprehensive policy on the international markets enables the successful implementation of large scale projects, regardless of the market situation.” The bank’s capital adequacy ratio currently stands at 19.6%.

Siarhei Pisaryk, chairman

Bosnia & Herzegovina | Raiffeisen Bank dd Bosna i Hercegovina

CEO Karlheinz Dobnigg notes that “despite very challenging market conditions, especially taking into account devastating floods that affected this region, we kept our business stability and market position.” While lending activity was constrained, the bank’s equity base was reinforced. Fee and commission income was up by 5.9%, partly balancing a 6.3% drop in net interest income. Raiffeisen was the first bank in Bosnia to introduce contactless cards and Point Of Sale devices, and it recorded another market first with its factoring product for corporates. 

Karlheinz Dobnigg, CEO

Bulgaria | UniCredit Bulbank

Bulgaria suffered a banking crisis in 2014. But UniCredit Bulbank, the country’s leading bank in terms of assets, loans and deposits, outperformed the market, achieving a 1.76% return on assets as net profits jumped by 68% to 242 million Bulgarian leva ($140 million). The country’s second-largest retail bank, it has continued to develop its network with the new, state-of-the-art “branch of the future” model, where the visit rate increased by over 60%. New deposits grew by about 24%—the largest rise across the retail-banking sector. Its market share also rose in the corporate and investment banking sector, and in 2014 it opened the UniCredit International Center—the first facility specifically designed to assist the expansion of enterprises from Italy and other countries into Bulgaria and the rest of the Balkan marketplace.

Levon Hampartzoumian, CEO and chairman

Croatia | Privredna banka Zagreb

The best-capitalized bank in Croatia, PBZ is well placed to handle the country’s challenging economic environment. The bank’s total assets reached nearly €9.5 billion, giving it a market share of more than 17%. PBZ is the country’s second-largest banking group by assets. It has the most extensive branch network in the country, with more than 200 branch offices, but it has also seen consistent growth in Internet banking customers (currently standing at 370,000, with 130,000 mobile-banking users). More than 90% of all its payments now take place through electronic channels. PBZ’s share of the country’s credit card operations exceeds 30%, and together with BNP Paribas Card Insurance it has designed a new product, Card Protect, to provide insurance cover against card loss. Its latest financial result was a net profit of €93 million.

Božo Prka, president

Czech Republic | ČSOB

ČSOB reported growth across all core sectors last year, despite conditions of near market saturation. The loan portfolio increased by 9% to 480 billion Czech korunas ($19 billion), with the main growth coming from mortgages (up 8%), corporate loans (up 12%) and leasing (up 17%). The bank retained its number-one position in the core products of mortgages, savings and loans and mutual funds. Deposits grew by 5% year-on-year to 585 billion korunas, and net interest income also grew despite the low-interest-rate environment. CFO Jiří Vévoda comments that “our net fee and commission income has grown on the back of elevated demand for investments, card transactions and bank insurance.” In particular, ČSOB benefits from a high degree of brand recognition and has a successful loyalty scheme. Net profits were flat year-on-year at 13.6 billion Czech korunas, and the core Tier I ratio was 17.2%.

John Hollows, CEO and chairman

Estonia | Swedbank Estonia

Swedbank’s headline profits for 2014 declined slightly, though this was largely owing to lower net recoveries and a higher deferred tax reserve. On the operating level, income rose thanks to higher business activity, and expenses decreased as a result of efficiency improvements. Deposits increased by 7.3% over the year, with more than half of this growth coming in the final quarter, resulting in a market share of 43.7% at year-end. Net interest income increased by 10.9% as a result of a combination of repricing and higher volumes. Rising usage of bank cards and higher asset management volumes and net inflows all helped achieve a 5.8% increase in commission and fee income, while the Estonian pension funds managed by Swedbank recently became the first in the Baltic States to break through the billion-euro barrier.

Robert Kitt, CEO

Hungary | OTP Bank

More-favorable local economic conditions in 2014, combined with improving confidence, resulted in a pickup in lending activity for OTP. The bank’s adjusted net profit for its core business in Hungary increased by 20% year-on-year to 137.4 billion Hungarian forints ($491 million). However, the regulatory environment remains challenging, and anticipated legal changes and rulings related to foreign-exchange mortgage contracts have required significant one-off write-downs across the sector, negatively impacting OTP’s consolidated bottom line. Costs related to risk mitigation efforts and losses declined by 57% over the year, while the bank’s Tier 1 capital ratio improved to 14.5% at the year’s end. OTP remains the market leader in terms of assets, deposits and loans, and continues to gain share in the corporate segment. It is committed to leading-edge technology, including the first digital wallet in Europe to leverage the API (application programming interface) of MasterPass and the introduction of the first contactless payment cards to Hungary.

Sándor Csányi, CEO

Kosovo | Raiffeisen Bank Kosovo

“2014 was an excellent year for the bank,” says its CEO Robert Wright, pointing to “a record net profit of €15.8 million.” Net interest and fee income improved, as did the bank’s cost/income ratio, nonperforming loans and other performance indicators. Prudent asset and liability management helped the bank maintain the lowest cost of funds in the market. This, in turn, enabled it to offer lower lending rates for certain products. It has a strong focus on customer service and offers market leading features and benefits on a wide range of digital banking services. Major upgrades to customer experience were rewarded by a sharp rise in private individuals’ net promoter score.

Robert Wright, CEO

Latvia | SEB Latvia

With its leading market share in lending, SEB benefited from a slight rise in net interest income and stronger growth in fees and commissions. Credit losses were significantly lower than in 2013, while a lid was kept on the cost base. Stated profits were adversely affected by the currency factors relating to Latvia’s joining the eurozone, resulting in a 7% drop in operating profit. Internet banking is increasingly important as a channel for servicing clients, and SEB is investing significantly to broaden its offer and strengthen security.

Ainărs Ozols, chairman

Lithuania | Šiaulių bankas

The largest Lithuanian-owned bank, with 65% of its share capital in local hands, Šiaulių had a successful year in 2014, with net profits more than tripling to just under 37 million Lithuanian litas ($12.6 million). Net interest income rose by 30%, fee and commission income by 23%, and deposits reached 4.9 billion litas—an overall increase of 8%, with private customer deposits and corporate clients’ funds up by 5% and 25%, respectively.  The changeover from the national currency to the euro at the beginning of 2015 went smoothly, and prior to that the bank saw its foreign currency transactions increase by 86%. The planned integration of the Finasta banking business will, according to CEO Vytautas Sinius, “strengthen capital markets services, investment and savings products and private banking, providing a wider range of services and adding value to our clients.”

Vytautas Sinius, CEO

Macedonia | Komercijalna Banka AD Skopje

With the country’s largest branch network, and holding a market share of 16.6% and 21.7% in ATMs and point-of-sale networks respectively, Komercijalna continues to strengthen its position as local market leader. It is currently rolling out plans for upgrading the branch network and has introduced new apps such as mBanka for smartphones. As of the end of 2014 its market share in total assets terms stood at 23.3%. The bank expanded its asset base by 6.8% over the year.

Net profits for 2014 reached nearly 100 million Macedonian denars ($1.7 million), which is a rise of 82 million denars over the previous year.

Hari Kostov, CEO

Moldova | Moldindconbank

Despite a year of uncertainty and macroeconomic risk in Moldova, which saw a depreciation of the national currency and a slowing of exports and remittances, Moldindconbank succeeded in growing net profits by $ 6.2 million—significantly more than any other market participant—and achieved the highest return on both assets and equity employed. The bank actively increased its loan portfolio, offering competitive products to both the corporate sector and private individuals, and registered one of the highest growth rates in terms of retail deposits. Card issuance increased by 21%, the overall number of customers by nearly 15%, and plans are in place to upgrade its technological infrastructure and launch mobile apps for Internet banking.

Leonid Talmaci, chairman of the managing board

Poland | mBank

Established in 1986 and having launched its retail operations in 2000 as a fully Internet-based bank, mBank is now the fourth-largest financial services group in Poland and the largest organically developed retail banking franchise in the CEE. Last year’s profit before tax of $527 million represented a year-on-year increase of 9.6%. Net interest income rose by 11.9% on the back of improved margins, while fees and commissions were nearly 12% higher. Combine that with a best-in-class cost/income ratio of 44.8%, and the bank was able to raise net profits by 7.5%, thereby generating a return on equity of 13.2%—despite taking a cautious line on provisions. The bank continues to focus on the most technologically advanced banking solutions and offers Internet— and mobile-based tools such as its corporate banking platform, mBank CompanyNet—the “light” version of which was introduced last year.

Cezary Stypulkowski, CEO

Romania | Banca Transilvania

Last year Banca Transilvania celebrated its 20th anniversary, and chairman Horia Ciorcilă commented, “Continuing our local investment policy, we decided to embrace new challenges, such as the acquisition of Volksbank România.” Total customer deposits increased by 16.4% over the previous period, while gross profit came in at more than 521 million Romanian leus ($126 million), a 7.6% hike. The bank has continued to streamline its activities and pursue cost control initiatives. These measures, combined with overall business growth, have led to an improvement in the cost/ income ratio by more than 14% over the previous year. Card transactions grew by 16.7%, while the number of active clients increased by 7.4%. Nonperforming loans at under 11% of the credit portfolio are below the country’s average, and as of year-end, NPL coverage stood at more than 126.5%, a figure that has been stable over the past two years.

Omer Tetik, CEO

Russia | Sberbank

Faced with economic contraction, curtailed access to international capital markets, a plunging currency, capital flight and high interest rate volatility, Russia’s biggest bank is experiencing challenging times. With its leading market share in terms of assets, loans and deposits—not to mention having a branch network eleven times larger than that of its nearest competitor—Sberbank accounts for roughly a third of Russia’s banking system. Nonetheless, at the operational level, 2014 was a good year. Net interest income rose by 18.3%, fees and commission by 24%, and operating income was nearly 27%, year-on-year. But the provision charge (against bad loans) almost quadrupled, nearly half of this being added in the final quarter. The set-aside resulted in a 14% decrease in pretax profits to 400 billion rubles ($7.7 billion). Sberbank scored high in approval and net promoter score ratings, and during 2014 it launched on social media a lite version of Sberbank Online, its Internet retail bank, which already has more than 17 million regular users. More recently, however, adverse developments in Russia have been taking their toll, and at the end of February, higher funding costs saw net interest income down by nearly a third year-on-year, while operating costs were up.

German Gref, CEO and chairman

Serbia | Banca Intesa Beograd

An active participant in the government-led lending program aimed at stimulating economic recovery, Banca Intesa is Serbia’s largest bank measured by assets, capital, loans and deposits. The bank achieved a net operating margin of 16.5%—well above the 10.9% of its nearest competitor. Customer deposits increased by 10.9% year-on-year, and it is developing plans to launch the private banking concept in the Serbian marketplace. The country’s first bank to offer HCE (host card emulation) for secure mobile near field communication (NFC) payments, it leads the domestic payment cards market and is the only Serbian bank to offer American Express within its payment card portfolio.

Slovakia | Tatra banka

In a country renowned for coming up with innovative banking technologies and solutions, Tatra banka is clearly the leader of the pack. Its clients can now use their smartphones to make cash withdrawals at ATMs as well as pay for goods and place payment orders through its VIAMO system. It has also pioneered voice biometrics as a means of identity verification for telephone banking, and more recently, it prepared the country’s first banking app for Google Glass. This multichannel strategy encompasses all customer communication channels, from its 143-strong branch network to social media. And that feeds through to a growing business, with loans up 9.3% year-on year and customer deposits up by 4.8%, while net interest and fee income rose by 4.5% and 9.6%, respectively. After strengthened provisioning the bank raised pretax profits by 13.8%.  

Igor Vida, CEO and chairman

Slovenia | SKB Banka

Last year’s winner, SKB, a subsidiary of Société Générale, improved its performance despite the still challenging economic situation in Slovenia. Operating profits rose to over €50 million, and net profits were over €35 million, owing to a 90% reduction in the provisions and impairments which had led to the previous year’s loss of over €30 million. At year-end the bank’s core Tier 1 capital adequacy ratio stood at a healthy 16.4%. The new product “saving triple plus,” founded on the concept of greater benefits for longer periods of saving, performed exceptionally well, and SKB regards it as symbolizing its strategy of being “simple, safe, and unique in the market.”

François Turcot, CEO

Turkey | Akbank

Despite challenging market conditions, Akbank has performed strongly by shifting its asset mix towards higher-yielding loans and focusing on capital-light fee- and commission-generating businesses. The bank’s loan-to-assets ratio rose to 62% thanks to its expanding overall lending by 15.4%. Corporate loans increased by 18%, while Akbank’s strong focus on SMEs resulted in 30% more lending to this key market segment. Further investment in IT made possible upgrades in customer interface and the launch of innovative services and smartphone apps, including fingerprint approval of transactions such as money transfers via Akbank Direkt and customers’ being able to withdraw money at ATMs by a single keypad stroke using iBeacon technology. Net interest income grew by 13%, and profit was up by 9.8% to 3.8 billion Turkish lira ($1.5 billion), resulting in a 14% boost to return on equity. Effective risk management kept Akbank’s nonperforming loan ratio at 1.7%, well below the sector average. Improved asset quality, stable funding and relatively low leverage contributed to the bank’s capital strengths. Its 13.8% Tier 1 capital ratio remains significantly stronger than the average for its peer group. 

Hakan Binbaşgil, CEO

Ukraine | PrivatBank

Amid the very difficult circumstances faced by Ukrainian banks—especially continuing capital outflows, owing to political uncertainty—market leader PrivatBank has retained its strong position and adjusted its retail strategy, offering flexible interest rates and bonus programs to loyal depositors. With a continued emphasis on improving the quality of its loan portfolio, credit-scoring models were further toughened and assets reduced from $13.6 billion to under $13 billion. With total net profits of $43.6 million for 11 months of 2014, PrivatBank exceeded the total net profit of all other Ukrainian banks combined. It has recently adopted a new patriotic image: “PrivatBank—for those who love Ukraine.”

Olexandr Dubilet, chairman


Regional Winner | Nordea

Nordea has the region’s largest banking platform and either leads or comes second place in terms of market share in all four of the major economies. Group CEO Christian Clausen says that “despite a challenging economic environment, Nordea delivered improved revenues and lower costs leading to increased profitability.” The bank’s operating profit increased by 9%, while costs were 4% lower, reducing the cost/income ratio to 49%. Clausen notes that Nordea attracted more new customers and further strengthened its capital position, its Tier I capital ratio improving by 1.8 percentage points to 15.7%. “We also took the next step,” he says, “in the transformation to meet our customers’ changing behavior and the new regulatory requirements. To facilitate the development of more personalized customer solutions and systems that efficiently fulfill the increasing monitoring and reporting requirements under the new regulation, we are simplifying processes in all parts of the bank. As part of this process, we will increase our IT investments by 30% to 35% over the coming years and build new core banking and payment platforms, significantly increasing our agility, benefits of scale and resilience.”

Christian Clausen, Group CEO and president

Denmark | Danske Bank

Denmark’s largest bank was hit harder than most during the financial crisis, owing to its large exposure to residential mortgages, both in the domestic market and through its Irish subsidiary, but Danske Bank is now firing on all cylinders, with enhanced profitability driven by growth across all income lines, lower loan impairments and reduced costs. Total income was up by 10%, while expenses were 5% lower, thanks to continuing cost efficiency measures. Underlying profits were up by 82%, and even after €1.2 billion of goodwill impairments, the bank generated a net profit of nearly €517 million. On the back of reduced risk levels and a strengthened capital base, Danske Bank was able to boost the dividend and announce a share buyback—the first in more than a decade.

Thomas Borgen, CEO

Finland | Pohjola

Although the Finnish economy is still struggling to emerge from recession, total income at OP Pohjola in 2014 grew by 10%, driven largely by improved earnings from the now wholly-owned and integrated banking and insurance group. Assets under management increased by 14% to €43.3 billion, and the loan portfolio grew by 5% to €14.9 billion. A renewed focus on cutting internal costs and boosting customer-facing activities, combined with efficient use of capital, enhanced profitability. Return on equity was 14.3%, and the directors approved a dividend of €0.43, representing a 30% dividend pay-out ratio. The Tier 1 capital ratio rose to 12.4%.

Reijo Karhinen, director general

Iceland | Landsbankinn

The restructuring of legacy loans at Iceland’s largest “good bank” is now complete, and although CEO Steinthór Pálsson acknowledges that “positive value adjustments of loans and revenues from equities have been large factors in the bank’s income,” his focus now is on “increasing efficiency and improving revenue structure.” A sizable increase in housing loans boosted the bank’s lending by 6%, while nonperforming loans shrank to 2.3% of the portfolio. Profits rose slightly last year to 29.7 billion Icelandic króna ($225 million), and ROE was 12.5%. Landsbankinn’s capital adequacy ratio was high in global terms at 29.5% at year-end, compared with 26.7% in 2013, and retained earnings boosted the capital base by 4% to 250.8 billion króna, despite the bank’s having paid out 20 billion króna in dividends.

Steinthór Pálsson, CEO

Norway | DNB

This last year has seen a high level of customer activity at DNB, which contributed to a substantial increase in profits of more than NKr3 billion ($370 million) to NKr20.6 billion. The Norwegian economy remains strong despite the drop in the price of oil. In particular, the housing market was buoyant, and DNB entered into more than 150,000 residential mortgage contracts amid intense competition. Net interest income increased by 7.6%, owing to higher lending volumes and inflows of deposits. The bank’s Tier 1 capital ratio improved from 11.8% to 12.7% at year-end, while return on equity rose to 13.8%. DNB’s goal is to be the most accessible bank in Norway, and last year saw a record of close to six million direct dialogues with customers, whether in branch or through telephone banking or social media such as Facebook.

Rune Bjerke, CEO

Sweden | Nordea

During 2014 the bank added 30,000 new relationship customers amid accelerating change in their behavior and preferred ways of banking. Last year saw a 90% increase in mobile transactions and Lennart Jacobsen, head of Nordea Sweden, says that “we continuously expand the opportunities for customers to interact with us as they prefer, whether it be though mobiles or tablets, calling our contact center, using the Netbank or getting a fast answer to an inquiry via Facebook. Household business volumes continued to grow with record inflow to retail funds, including the newly launched Nordea Nordic Stars Equity Fund. Net interest income was steady at just a bit over €1 billion, and net fee and commission income increased by  €377 million. The cost/income ratio improved to 53%. The bank plans to hike its investment in new core banking and payment platforms.

Lennart Jakobsen, country senior executive



An economic slowdown across many Latin American markets poses a challenging operating environment for the region’s financial institutions, as asset and loan growth rates have begun to temper from previously robust levels. Banks in the region had already been planning for a rainy day by adjusting their business strategies and implementing ambitious efficiency programs, for which profitability levels still remain high.

The outlook varies substantially by market, with Mexico expected to be a star performer as it consolidates an economic rebound closely linked to ongoing recovery in the US, while Brazil, Argentina and Venezuela are bracing for further GDP contractions.

Regional Winner | BBVA

BBVA has a stated goal of building the best digital bank of the 21st century in a move that is helping technologically transform Latin America’s banking sector. The bank is investing $2.5 billion in its Latin American operations through 2016 (the plan was launched in 2013) to become the region’s top digital bank. The aim is to make BBVA a totally digital company, including all products and services. BBVA operates banks in Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay and Venezuela, as well as a pension fund manager in Bolivia. Latin American operations generated nearly €3 billion ($3.2 billion) in net attributable profit in 2014.

Francisco González, chairman and CEO

Argentina | Banco Macro

Despite a difficult economic environment, Banco Macro remains profitable and retains its ranking as the second-largest domestically owned private bank in Argentina. The bank’s 434 branches give it the largest branch network of any private bank in the country, with 79% of offices located in the interior provinces. Macro is the exclusive financial agent for four provincial governments. It is the only Argentine bank that has posted 52 consecutive profitable quarters and maintains an efficiency ratio of 47.7%. Its varied corporate social responsibility activities include financial education initiatives for senior citizens.

Jorge Horacio Brito, chairman and CEO    

Barbados | Scotiabank Barbados

Scotiabank remains the dominant player in the island’s banking sector, with a 33% market share, despite Barbados’s eroding consumer confidence stemming from public-sector staffing cuts to face economic challenges. While many consumers have transitioned to credit unions and banks struggle to compete for business, Scotiabank retains its customers’ loyalty. In 2014, when its assets grew 12.35%, the bank focused on expanding its small- and medium-enterprise (SME) business portfolio by sponsoring entrepreneurship workshops and small business seminars.

David Noel, managing director (Caribbean East)

Belize | Belize Bank

Founded in 1902, Belize Bank is the oldest and largest full service bank in the country, with 12 branches and 26 ATMs nationwide. Its stated vision is “to become the preeminent financial services provider in Central America and the Caribbean.” To meet this goal, Belize Bank is strengthening its management structure, upgrading its infrastructure and improving customer service for domestic and international clientele. The bank is one of Belize’s best-regarded corporate citizens, with strong involvement in community projects.

Lyndon Guiseppi, executive chairman and group CEO

Bolivia | Banco de Crédito de Bolivia

Banco de Crédito de Bolivia continues to invest in projects that aim to provide customers with a better banking experience. In 2014 it continued to modernize many of its 51 branches, upgraded technology at its 247 ATMs, and completely rebuilt its online banking platform. It was also part of a $300 million equity deal that was the largest in Bolivian stock market history. It holds SME forums throughout the country.

Jorge Alberto Mujica Gianoli, general manager

Brazil | Banco Bradesco

Bradesco’s business philosophy focuses on improving financial inclusion, providing banking services to all socioeconomic classes in Brazil and maintaining a presence in each of the country’s municipal districts. Bradesco has even established operations in the “favelas” (urban slums) of São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. The bank services its 74.5 million clients through a network of 4,659 branches, 4,631 ATMs and 75,176 customer service centers throughout Brazil. Its CSR program operates 40 free schools with more than 105,000 students. Bradesco is part of the Dow Jones Sustainability Index.

Luiz Carlos Trabuco Cappi, CEO

Chile | Banco de Chile

Banco de Chile is the most recognized brand among financial institutions in Chile, owing to its more than 120-year history and high customer loyalty. It has launched a three-year plan to further improve its customers’ banking experience. The bank operates 293 branches under the Banco de Chile and Banco Edwards/Citi brands, and 136 under Banco CrediChile, with each division focused on different market segments. Its stellar reputation allowed the bank to issue bonds in Switzerland, Japan and Hong Kong in 2014.

Arturo Tagle, CEO

Colombia | Bancolombia

Bancolombia continues an acquisitions drive that is making it a regional Latin American player, as well as a banking powerhouse in Colombia. It acquired HSBC Panama (now Banistmo) at end-2014, prompting a 1.5% year-on-year growth in assets. Net income grew 35.5%. The group has nine million clients across Colombia and Central America. In 2014 it rolled out standardized customer service guidelines and it launched the country’s first electronic fixed-income deal.

Carlos Raúl Yepes Jiménez, CEO and president

Costa Rica | Banco BAC San José

Accounting for some 10% of the financial system’s total assets, Banco BAC San José is one of the Central American country’s strongest banking franchises. The bank is a leader in both electronic and mobile banking services, and has become an important provider of microfinancing and SME loans that are considered an economic development priority by the Costa Rican government. It is the first bank to issue such loans under a development banking regulatory reform introduced in early 2015.

Gerardo Corrales, CEO and president

GDP growth of 7.3%, inflation below 4% and a stable currency exchange rate substantially improved the business environment in the Dominican Republic in 2014, which positively impacted Banco Popular Dominicano’s performance. The bank’s total assets grew by nearly 10% year-on-year in 2014, when its nonperforming loan ratio was 1.04% and coverage ratio was 227.15%. Its growth strategy is focused on commercial lending to productive sectors, particularly agriculture and tourism. In 2014 it was granted an AA+ local rating by Fitch, citing the bank’s market leadership and financial strength.

Manuel Grullón, chairman and group CEO

Ecuador | Banco Pichincha

Banco Pichincha is the largest private bank in Ecuador in terms of capitalization and deposits ($7.2 billion). The bank services its 2.8 million customers through more than 800 points of service throughout the country, as well as operations in Peru, Spain and Colombia. In 2014 its assets were $9.9 billion (up from $9.0 billion in 2013). Pichincha has hired US-based MetricStream to provide a multilingual, Cloud-based solution for business continuity management.

Fidel Egas Grijalva, president and CEO

El Salvador | Banco Agrícola

Banco Agrícola is El Salvador’s financial services leader, with a 28.7% market share of loans, 28.1% of deposits and 47.8% of net income. It maintains the largest nationwide footprint of any bank, with 66 branches, 540 ATMs and 206 electronic kiosks across 134 municipalities. The Salvadoran Industrial Association recognized the bank as being the most supportive of the local business sector. The bank’s nonperforming loan ratio of 1.48% is below the sector’s average, and it maintains an efficiency ratio of 46.2%. Electronic channels account for 83.3% of transactions.

Rafael Barraza, CEO

Guatemala | Banco Industrial

With a 27.7% share of total assets, 26.5% of loans and 24.8% of deposits, Banco Industrial is Guatemala’s industry leader. It is the country’s main check-clearing institution, major tax collector for the government and sole settling institution for the wholesale electricity market. Net income grew 28% in 2014, driven by a loan portfolio diversification strategy focused on credit cards and microfinance. In 2014 the bank achieved a Customer Satisfaction Index rating of 90%. It is the only bank in Guatemala with international ratings from Fitch, Moody’s and S&P.

Diego Pulido, CEO

Honduras | Banco Atlántida

Banco Atlántida is Honduras’ largest bank. Since its beginnings in 1913 in the coastal town of La Ceiba, the bank has grown into a nationwide institution. It boasts 182 branches and more than 800 points of service in all of the country’s 18 departmental regions. The bank is also one of the most highly recognized corporate brands in Honduras. Atlántida provides seed capital to SMEs at preferential rates and is eyeing a potential expansion into neighboring El Salvador.

Guillermo Bueso Anduray, CEO

Jamaica | Scotiabank Jamaica

After launching its small-business-banking offering in 2007, Scotiabank Jamaica has become a leader in providing lower-cost SME loans through a series of special programs. This initiative, which includes strategic partnerships with other organizations focused on entrepreneurship, continues to support the country’s economic development and competitiveness. In 2014 its customer contact center was certified by the Service Quality Measurement (SQM) Group as a world-class operation for the third consecutive year. The bank has been operating since 1889 in Jamaica, where it has 34 branches throughout the island.

Jacqueline T. Sharp, president and CEO

Mexico | BBVA Bancomer

Although impacted by lower-than-expected Mexico GDP growth in 2014 coupled with several interest rate cuts, which led to a drop in net income, BBVA Bancomer posted an 11.7% rise in total assets that gave it a 22% market share. BBVA Bancomer is forging ahead with an ambitious $3.5 billion business transformation plan, initiated in 2013, to upgrade all of its customer service functions, to be completed in 2016. In 2014 the bank launched a new digital banking unit, and it will open a world-class data processing center in 2015.

Vicente Rodero Rodero, CEO

Nicaragua | Banco Lafise Bancentro

Lafise Bancentro posted a 28.1% rise in consolidated net income to $41.9 million in 2014, the best result in its history. The bank reported a 25.9% market share of total loans in Nicaragua, with double-digit growth in all loan categories, including $670.2 million to SMEs. Lafise Bancentro is an important lender to the agricultural sector, a key engine for the country’s economic growth. Fitch upgraded the bank’s local credit rating in 2014 owing to sustained improvements in profitability and loan portfolio quality. Its nonperforming loan ratio was 0.7%. 

Carlos Briceño Ríos, general manager

Panama | Banco General

Banco General had another banner year in 2014, as net income rose 14.8% year-on-year to $312.8 million and total assets increased 12% to $13.2 billion. Return on equity (ROE) was 20.7% and return on assets (ROA) was 2.5%, with an operating efficiency ratio of 37.1%. The bank has launched a three-year (2015–2017) strategic plan to further improve performance. Holding a leading 25.6% market share of private-sector deposits and 18.7% of loans, Banco General also processes more than 42% of all ATM transactions in Panama.

Raúl Alemán Zubieta, CEO

Paraguay | Banco Itaú Paraguay

The Paraguayan subsidiary of Brazilian banking giant Itaú is the South American country’s largest bank, with more than an 18% market share of both total assets and total deposits. In 2014 its revenue represented nearly 32% of the sector’s total. ROE was 40.98% and ROA was 4.15%. In addition to having Paraguay’s largest ATM footprint (297) and 31 full-service branches, Itaú Paraguay runs a network of nonbank correspondent centers located mainly in neighborhood supermarkets. It was the first bank in Paraguay to introduce debit cards with chip technology.

Viviana Celia Varas, CEO

Peru | BBVA Continental

BBVA Continental outshines its peers, posting an 11.2% year-on-year asset increase in 2014, driven by 10% growth in its net loan portfolio and further strengthening of its risk profile. The bank’s nonperforming loan ratio was 2.2%, lowest among peers and below the 2.5% system average. Its coverage ratio of 202.11% was also above the sector average of 165%. ROE was 26.7% and ROA was 2.3%. In 2014, Continental opened 27 new branches in 2014 and maintained more than 3,200 express agents at neighborhood grocery stores and shops.

Eduardo Torres Llosa Villacorta, CEO

As Puerto Rico’s banking leader, Popular presents a strong comeback in a market hit by persistent economic recession. Popular, which holds the largest market share by assets and deposits, acquired $2.3 billion in assets of failed rival Doral Bank in early 2015. The deal brought $1 billion in Doral deposits, strengthening Popular’s declining deposit base. Popular repaid its $935 million TARP debt without need to issue new equity. Its strategy is focused on solidifying its local base, as well as servicing the Hispanic community through US mainland branches.

Richard Carrión, president and CEO

Trinidad & Tobago | Scotiabank Trinidad & Tobago

As part of Canada’s most international bank, Scotiabank Trinidad & Tobago offers clients local expertise as well as access to a global network. In 2014 the bank celebrated its 60th anniversary in the country. The year also marked a 10% year-on-year rise in net income, 6% growth in assets and 12% growth in the bank’s combined retail and commercial loan portfolio. ROA was 2.5% and the productivity ratio was 46%. The bank is implementing a series of operating efficiency initiatives in Trinidad & Tobago and throughout the Caribbean.

Anya Schnoor, managing director

Turks & Caicos | Scotiabank Turks & Caicos

Scotiabank Turks & Caicos has been the islands’ leading financial institution since its arrival in 1982. The bank holds a 59% market share of mortgages, 78% of consumer loans and 72% of deposits. Unlike competitors focused on the territory’s two urban centers, Scotiabank operates on four islands, with full-service branches and 14 ATMs. It is the only bank in the territory investing in CHIP EMV card technology for ATMs, and it invested $800,000 in employee training in 2014. It is an important supporter of health, sports and education initiatives.

Sean Brathwaite, managing director

Uruguay | Santander Uruguay

With SMEs contributing 40% of Uruguay’s GDP and employing 60% of private-sector workers, Santander Uruguay’s support for small businesses has been crucial to their development and consolidation since the bank arrived in 1978. The local subsidiary of Spain’s Santander group offers special SME products (including commercial accounts and a loan guarantee program), supports training initiatives for entrepreneurs and provides SME loan approvals within 24 hours. Its CSR efforts range from support for youth orchestras and blood donation drives to rural education, recycling and poverty alleviation among children.

Juan Carlos Chomali, Country Manager

US Virgin Islands | Scotiabank USVI

Scotiabank, operating in the US Virgin Islands since 1963, offers retail and commercial banking services, including online banking and electronic cash management. While the bank has been expanding its ATM network (14), it decided to close two branches in 2014 as part of an efficiency effort, leaving it with only three. However, customer loyalty remains firm. Scotiabank’s CSR activities include support for education, arts and culture, and the environment, as well as assisting underprivileged and abused children. It also provides scholarships to the University of the Virgin Islands.

Lawrence Aqui, vice president and country manager

Venezuela | BBVA Banco Provincial

Operating in a market with an economy in meltdown mode is not easy, but BBVA Banco Provincial remains profitable amid a GDP contraction, soaring inflation and a currency tailspin. The bank’s net income grew by 39.8% year-on-year in 2014, when total assets grew 50.3% (representing 12.28% of the sector’s total assets). Its gross loan portfolio grew 67.4% in 2014, when consumer loans, particularly credit cards, rose 87.8% (15.05% market share), though the nonperforming loan ratio improved to 0.35%. The bank opened a new data processing center in 2014.

Pedro Rodríguez Serrano, CEO



It is no exaggeration to say Asia’s banking scene is the world’s most vibrant. In Asia, banks are fighting to bring in a wide swath of new customers, and not just the richest ones. Chalk that up to two elements Asian banks are benefiting from: A rising middle class across the region is introducing millions of new potential customers to consumer banks, and no other region in the world has a population that is so open to using everyday technology like mobile phones to organize their financial lives.

From a confectionary worker in Vietnam to a farmer in Myanmar to a worker in a chip foundry in Taiwan, banking customers are welcoming tech innovation, and banks are falling over themselves to offer it.

On the corporate side, the scene is changing in exciting ways as well. China’s state megabanks are (finally) internationalizing, as witnessed by China Construction Bank’s recent vow to open branches in eight new countries this year. These banks are following their mainland customers as they step up their overseas businesses. Both constituents are pushing China’s currency, the renminbi, closer to reserve currency status, as cross-border payments accelerate and capital restrictions in China ease.

All-in-all, banking in Asia is in an exuberant phase.

Regional Winner | ANZ Group

It’s tough to find a corner of finance in the Asia-Pacific where ANZ has not made its mark. ANZ operates in 29 countries across the region and is looking to complete the set by starting up operations in Myanmar and Thailand.

ANZ is one of the leading loan houses in Asia, ranked second only to Standard Chartered in 2014, with 57 deals totaling $7.5 billion in G3 (euro, dollar, yen) currencies, according to Dealogic. With one of the largest loan syndication teams in the region, ANZ is in position to leverage this franchise to continue building out its presence in acquisition finance, export and project finance and corporate advisory. 

One slice of the deal pie that ANZ wants to capture is greater China outbound M&A into Australia, as the Australian dollar is expected to remain weak and the drop in global commodity prices has made many businesses in the country attractive takeover targets.

The bank is also trying to translate regional expansion into better electronic banking service for corporate customers. In early March, ANZ won Celent’s Model Bank Award for payments innovation as it has expanded its common platform across the region.

The banking group could be on the cusp of a new phase of expansion. As of late March, ANZ has been mulling a buyout of the Asian regional assets of Royal Bank of Scotland, which is in the midst of downsizing. Any acquisition would help it vie against much bigger global rivals HSBC and Citigroup.

Michael Smith, CEO

Afghanistan | Afghanistan International Bank

Afghanistan International Bank (AIB) was founded in the war-torn nation at the behest of the Asian Development Bank (ADB), with shareholders that include, besides ADB, Horizon Associates and Wilton Holdings, part of Pakistan’s Rahmat Group, a trading house. Endurance and reliability have underscored its growth—it has established 17 branches in the greater Kabul area and has introduced such “leap-frog” banking services as mobile phone access to accounts and services, bringing in customers that have never had exposure to branch banking.

Khalilullah Sediq, CEO

Armenia | Ameriabank

Ameriabank opened a branch in rural, remote Syunik province in March, offering an “I love Syunik” card that includes such benefits as a 1% discount on Internet banking services. Its expertise in bringing customers into 21st-century banking is only one aspect that has marked Ameriabank’s rise. It is the only universal bank in the country offering corporate and retail banking. Profits grew 17% to 7.1 billion drams ($15 million) in 2014.

Artak Hanesyan, CEO

Australia | ANZ Group

ANZ Group has become such a familiar banking force in Asia, it is sometimes overlooked that it is one of Australia’s biggest lenders. The bank reported a record full-year profit of $6.4 billion for its fiscal year ending September 2014. While the gains came in part from Asian operations, they reflected strong performance at home, where ANZ outshined other “big four” members. ANZ is the nation’s third-largest bank by market value. One of the reason for the record profit from ANZ: significant reduction of bad debt expenses, a sign that the bank has successfully built out its system of controls.

Michael Smith, CEO

Azerbaijan | Accessbank

In April 2014, Accessbank obtained a $60 million syndicated loan from a group of select European banks, the first international loan to an Azerbaijani bank without the help of a multilateral lender. The bank is using the proceeds to step up its microcredit program to foster growth in the SME sector, where businesses, outside of oil and gas, lack access to capital.

Michael Hoffmann, chairman

Bangladesh | City Bank

City was formed with four other banks in 1983 as a participant in the national program to introduce a modern banking system. It is unique in Bangladesh for its centralized structure based on information technology, with a platform that unifies and shares essential data from five units: business banking, branch banking, risk oversight, operations and customer support. Most other banks in Bangladesh have a decentralized structure with an emphasis on regional management. City Bank’s centralized approach allows it closer monitoring of risk performance and cross-selling opportunities. Currently, it operates 112 branches, 99 of which have online services; one full-fledged Islamic banking branch; an SME service center; and 11 SME agricultural lending branches.

Rubel Aziz, chairman

Brunei Darussalam | Bank Islam Brunei Darussalam

Bank Islam Brunei Darussalam (BIBD) grew its market share 3.2% in the first nine months of 2014, with a 7% increase in revenues and 16% growth in profits during the period, as compared with the previous year. Its total number of retail customers reached 243,966—a net increase of 10,500 customers from year-end 2013. The strong expansion reflects BIBD’s emphasis on improving sales and customer touch points in the oil rich nation. Its retail banking division is expanding rapidly.

Javed Ahmad, managing director

Cambodia | ABA Bank

Bank of Canada revealed in January 2015 that it had increased its stake in Cambodia’s ABA Bank to 42% from 10%. The Canadian bank said that it did so because the small- to medium-enterprise sector in Cambodia is growing fast and ABA was best in position to take advantage of the boom. The bigger stake has given ABA Bank the backing it needs to fulfill its growth ambitions, with plans to own 40 branches by 2017 from a current 27.

Damir Karassayev, chairman

China | China Construction Bank

The legacy state infrastructure finance bank is now an international player. CCB announced in late March that it would set up branches in eight countries in 2015—in France, the Netherlands, Poland, Italy, Spain, Switzerland, Chile and Malaysia. While most of China’s big state-owned banks are following business and consumer customers overseas, CCB leads its peers in developing cross-border services in renminbi payments and trade and banking services. At home, it will have to safeguard against erosion of its net interest margin following successive rate cuts by China’s central bank. But CCB has proven equal to this task before.

Wang Hongzhang, chairman and executive director

Georgia | TBC Bank

When TBC Bank sought to raise funds in June 2014, it opted for a London IPO of global depositary receipts, raising $640 million. That proved it had the confidence of global investors; it has also been winning the loyalty of customers at home. A reassuring shareholder base, including JPMorgan Chase and the EBRD, has helped TBC build public confidence. It became the largest retail bank in Georgia in fourth quarter 2014, with a 27.7% market share of total loans in the country.

Vakhtang Butskhrikidze, CEO

Hong Kong | Hang Seng Bank

Hang Seng has a reputation for building value the durable way. It’s well earned. Hang Seng has been slow to ratchet up lending in China, unlike most of its Hong Kong competitors. But it has proven that it knows how to make a good call on the mainland. It announced that it will sell 5%, or about half of its stake, in Shanghai-listed Industrial Bank for $2 billion, garnering a handsome profit. It will use the proceeds to shore up capital. But Hang Seng is retaining 5.9%, with a vow to regularly review the value of its investment. 

Rose Lee Wai Mun, vice chairman and chief executive

India | State Bank of India

Call it the Modi factor. The nation’s biggest lender by assets, State Bank of India (SBI) said it would issue up to $2.4 billion in new shares by the end of April 2015. How will it use the money? SBI led the way in digital innovation in India, bringing mobile access to banking services in the countryside to millions over a period of five years since 2011. It will continue expanding this initiative, and at the same time shore up its capital base. SBI chairperson Arundhati Bhattacharya is ruffling feathers by talking about outsourcing some jobs for the ultimate goal of better services and efficiencies.

Arundhati Bhattacharya, chairman

Indonesia | Bank Mandiri

Bank Mandiri, Indonesia’s largest lender by assets, enjoyed 9.2% profit growth in 2014 and maintained a robust net interest margin, despite a challenging year for Indonesian banks. The bank has been expanding at the expense of competitors, growing its loan portfolio by 12.2% in 2014. It plans to best that figure this year with gross loan growth of 15% to 17%. It will have to keep an eye on controls, as nonperforming loans have edged up: They now constitute 2.15% of total loans, versus 1.9% at the end of 2013.

Budi Sadikin, CEO

Japan | Shinsei Bank

You can’t applaud the Shinsei Bank of today without understanding its roots. Shinsei’s predecessor was the Long-Term Credit Bank of Japan, which collapsed and was nationalized 1998. The government injected funds for its survival, and it became Shinsei, under new management and substantial new investment by foreign interests. The rescue worked, but eventually Shinsei expanded too fast and ran into asset quality problems, with dicey credits like nonrecourse real estate and leveraged finance loans burdening its books. After a change in management and systems, and now into its second major medium-term management plan, Shinsei has finally navigated its problems; Moody’s upgraded its long-term debt to positive in January.

Shigeki Toma, president

Kazakhstan | Kazkommertsbank

The largest nonstate bank in Kazakhstan by market share, Kazkommertsbank has gained its 24% slice of the total banking market by proving itself more competitive than state institutions. Recently KKB, as it is known, snatched up a 46.5% stake in BTA Bank, a rival that had gone bust during the global financial crisis and was bailed out by sovereign investment fund Samruk-Kazyna. Another 46.5% stake was bought by local Kazakh tycoon Kenes Rakishev. KKB has its work cut out for it, because BTA still has a nonperforming loan ratio of 87% of gross loans. But KKB has proven adept at improving its own NPL ratio in the past.

Marc Holtzman, chairman

Kyrgyzstan | Demir Kyrgyz International Bank

The first bank in the Kyrgyz Republic launched with foreign capital, Demir passed a milestone in December when foundation investor EBRD reduced its shareholding by half to 7.5%, in recognition of the bank’s stand-alone strength. Both the International Finance Corporation and the EBRD seeded Demir’s capital 17 years ago at its inception, as a means to improve access to finance by companies and consumers in a country sorely in need of a modern banking system. Demir is now one of the top three banks in Kyrgyzstan in corporate and small- to medium-enterprise lending.

Sevki Sarilar, chairman, general manager

Macau | ICBC Macau

At the end of March 2015, parent company Industrial Commercial Bank of China injected $360 million in capital into ICBC Macau. It did so to build on the bank’s growing market position and to fend off its main competitor, Bank of China Macau, which holds the top market spot in the gambling haven. ICBC Macau’s credit quality, with only 0.5% of its loan portfolio classified as nonperforming, gives it room to tap into the high and constant flow of overseas customers from China and to introduce innovative products linking back to the mainland.

Malaysia | Public Bank (Malaysia)

Public Bank last year outstripped the national loan growth average of about 9% by increasing the credits on its books by 10.8%. This demonstrates that the market for consumer loans in Malaysia is going strong and that Public Bank is growing faster than its competitors. It has done this while retaining its position as one of the nation’s safest banks, with the lowest impaired-loan ratio in the industry, at 0.7% (the industry average is 1.7%). Public Bank is growing in stature as a regionwide player. At the end of March it became the sole owner of a bank in Vietnam, after gaining government approval to buy out its local joint venture partner.

Tan Sri Tay, managing director and CEO

Mongolia | Golomt Bank

A major lender in Mongolia, Golomt Bank fell on hard times after allegations of hidden defaults in 2013. But a new chief executive has given the bank a new face and stronger system of risk controls. It still remains the most innovative consumer and business bank in Mongolia.

L. Oyun-Erdene, CEO

Myanmar | Co-operative Bank

Formed by a government merging of three co-operative banks in 2004, CB, as it is called, has grown to 127 branches. CB has a strong presence in booming Yangon, but it has also distinguished itself with such services as the modestly dubbed “Agent Banking,” which sets up network agents in the countryside to allow farmers to access mobile-phone banking services without having to travel to distant branches. It has also introduced a full suite of cash management services for Myanmar’s young businesses. CB signed a cooperative agreement with the Bank of Tokyo Mitsubishi in 2013, a long-standing partnership that has helped improve CBs offerings.

U Khin Maung Aye, chairman

Nepal | Standard Chartered Nepal

Standard Chartered Nepal finished another good year of steady performance, with an eye, as always, on shoring up its balance sheet and expansion without accelerating risk. After-tax profits for its fiscal 2013—2014 grew 10%, to 1.3 billion rupees ($13 million). The bank reported record income and operating profit, despite what it described as an environment of “margin compression.” For the 2013—2014 fiscal period, deposits grew by 17% to 46.3 billion rupees, compared with the previous period.

Joseph Silvanus, CEO

New Zealand | Westpac New Zealand

Westpac New Zealand was on a roll in 2014, with a 13% rise in annual cash earnings to $864 million on better lending performance and improving bad debts. The year-on-year decline in bad debts was 23%. The rise in income was because of strong growth in domestic financial services and mortgage lending, with total lending up 5% to $3 billion. Mortgages accounted for two-thirds of that amount. In New Zealand, Westpac has installed eye recognition technology in branches, and it is offering enhanced digital and mobile functionality to customers. 

David McLean, CEO

Pakistan | Standard Chartered Pakistan

Pakistan has the reputation of being a difficult market to succeed in. But Standard Chartered Pakistan is going against the grain. It reported profit growth of 17% for its fiscal 2014. The growth looks sustainable, as the bank has placed the strongest emphasis on lending controls among its peers and maintains a 90% provision level against bad loans. Improved administrative controls have delivered a lower cost of deposits than competitors, allowing more flexibility for greater expansion.

Christos Papadopoulos, chairman

Philippines | BDO

The Philippines has enjoyed a rare period of financial stability under president Benigno Aquino III, a sweet spot that has improved domestic consumption. In March 2015, BDO received approval from the Philippines Central Bank to acquire the biggest rural bank in the province of Mindanao, adding another step in BDO’s march to dominating market share in a crowded arena. As the market grows, BDO is best positioned to add new customers. At the end of March, it had 875 branches and 2,542 ATMs nationwide.

Teresita Sy, chairperson

Singapore | DBS Bank

Southeast Asia’s biggest bank, DBS is showing its peers what it means to be big, profitable and enduring. Under CEO Piyush Gupta, DBS has been taking market share in fee-based businesses such as wealth management and investment banking advisory.

When Gupta started as chief executive in 2009, he deployed the bank’s strong balance sheet to build one of Asia’s most impressive trade finance businesses. Soon DBS was biting into bigger banks’ share of financing associated with trade flows between China and Southeast Asia. Now it is taking M&A work away from competitors. It made a decisive step into wealth management by buying Société Générale’s Asian private bank. DBS has tracked the rise of its successful clients into the equity capital markets. In 2014 it advised the $800 million May IPO of the Thai Hotel Investment Freehold & Leasehold Property Fund. “We follow our clients in their growth journey,” in the words of Eng-Kwok Seat Moey, DBS head of capital markets.

Piyush Gupta, CEO

South Korea | Shinhan Bank

Shinhan has boosted its position as an international bank, boasting $120 million in earnings from overseas in 2014. It had 70 branches in 16 countries at year-end 2014, with 8.5% of total profits garnered from overseas. It says it will push past 10% contribution from overseas in 2015. Better overseas loan quality, with the nonperforming loan ratio dropping to 0.6% from over 2% four years ago, is helping.

Yong-Byoung Cho, CEO

Sri Lanka | NDB Bank

Still awaiting a government nod to proceed with a merger with longtime rival DFCC, NDB said in late March that it is going ahead with an expansion plan into Southeast Asia. Prospects look good for the merger, which was instigated by regulators in the previous regime to build a bigger, better-capitalized bank out of the two state-owned institutions. The upsized NDB would have the heft to offer investment banking services.

Rajendra Theagaraja, CAO

Taiwan | Taipei Fubon Commercial Bank

You can’t fault a bank that has topped profitability among its peers for six years running. Taipei Fubon posted NT18 billion ($575 million) in net profits for 2014, a 7% increase over the previous year. Taipei Fubon grew its loan portfolio in 2014 substantially to NT1.3 trillion, up 18%. However, the bank’s emphasis on credit quality has resulted in a ratio of nonperforming loans to gross loans of 0.17% and an NPL coverage ratio of 788.58%. It excels in understanding its customers—a necessity for success in Taiwan’s highly competitive banking market. The bank puts it this way: “By bringing together institutional and personal finance sales teams, marketing resources and customer information, the bank was able to perceive customers’ needs and more precisely define target groups, providing the right products and services that achieved higher penetration rates.” One result: Taipei Fubon’s well-designed new online banking interface has won accolades from customers—and even the admiration of the competition.

Daniel Tsai, chairman

Thailand | Siam Commercial Bank

Siam Commercial Bank is Thailand’s largest commercial bank by market value and is 23.7% owned by the Crown Property Bureau, the investment arm of the Thai monarchy. That gives it an anchor in a highly competitive banking market that was also hit by continued unrest up until mid-2014. Building on the current period of relative stability, Siam Commercial is projecting loan growth in 2015 of 5% to 7%, up from 2% last year. It aims to grow by offering affordable banking services to small and medium-size clients.

Arthid Nanthawithaya, CEO

Uzbekistan | Asia Alliance Bank

Asia Alliance’s determination to become the nation’s go-to bank for consumers and companies has led it to robust expansion in virtually all categories of banking, including lending, credit card issuance, cash management, foreign exchange and subcustody. Its rapid expansion led to some concerns by Moody’s over credit quality, but the rating agency also expressed confidence in Asia Alliance by noting its liquidity position, exceeding 50% of total assets at year-end 2014.

Abdukahorov Ikrom Abduhalikovich, chairman

Vietnam | Techcombank

Vietnam, like almost all countries in Southeast Asia, has a growing population of middle-class consumers crazy for mobile online services. Techcombank knows how to reach these customers. For example, last November it launched a mobile banking service that allowed money transfers through social networks such as Facebook and Google+, via technology purchased from FastCash Singapore. The bank is also original in the way it packages products for industry sectors. It even has an exclusive offering for confectionary distributors.

Ho Hùng Anh, chairmanr



Banks in the Middle East were already under pressure to manage their capital and liquidity more carefully to meet new Basel III requirements when they were hit with new worries about falling oil prices. The International Monetary Fund cautions that Arab Gulf bank portfolios are heavily concentrated in the oil sector, exposing them to greater risks, including the possibility of a broad economic slowdown.

Moody’s Investors Service says in a recent report that sustained low oil prices could result in lower government-related deposits and cause a decline in bank liquidity in the region. This could affect loan growth and profitability.

Banks in Bahrain and Oman are the most likely to be affected, Moody’s says. In most cases, however, the capital that Gulf banks have amassed in the past five years of high oil prices will cushion the immediate impact. While loan growth and profitability are likely to suffer, a material impact on asset quality is unlikely in the near term, according to Moody’s. On the bright side, lower oil prices have lessened pressure on government finances for the oil-importing countries of the region, such as Jordan and Lebanon.

Regional Winner | National Bank of Kuwait

National Bank of Kuwait has kept a close watch on asset quality, and its conservative approach to lending has paid off during a period of political turmoil in the Middle East. NBK stands to benefit from its preeminent position in its home market, as Kuwait’s non-oil growth accelerates an expected 5% to 6% this year and next. Capital spending under the government’s long-delayed development plan has finally begun to boost economic activity outside of the petroleum sector. NBK is the main financier and loan arranger for the government’s major infrastructure projects.

NBK’s long-term strategy is to maintain its leading position in Kuwait, while leveraging its well-known brand throughout the region. In the Middle East and North Africa, it has a presence in Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates.

NBK Group posted a 10% rise in earnings in 2014, while its assets increased by 17.1%, to more than $74 billion. The bank has proved resilient throughout its transition to new management and has set clearly defined goals across a product and service range that includes corporate finance, investment and wealth management, and retail banking.

Isam Jassim Al Sager, group CEO

Bahrain | Ahli United Bank

Ahli United Bank earned a record $483 million from continuing operations in 2014, an increase of 32% from a year earlier, while operating income crossed the $1 billion mark for the first time. AUB has full banking operations in Bahrain, Kuwait, Egypt, Iraq, Oman and Libya, and it has a UK subsidiary. The bank follows a diversified business model and has been awarded a credit rating that is two notches higher than Bahrain’s sovereign rating. AUB has a conservative nonperforming-loan-coverage ratio of nearly 160%. The bank’s cross-border business has grown steadily and accounts for 20% of its total loan portfolio.

Adel El-Labban, group CEO and managing director

Egypt | Commercial International Bank

Commercial International Bank reported a 24% rise in earnings and a 30% return on average equity in 2014. Egypt’s largest private-sector bank has 161 branches and a leading market share in loans and deposits. Egypt’s stock exchange in February approved a request by CIB to increase its capital by $300 million. CIB’s corporate banking group financed key projects in the power sector last year, and its corporate loan portfolio grew by more than 14%. The treasury and capital markets group is a top profit center for CIB. The bank is also the leader in domestic and cross-border securities services.

Hisham Ezz Al-Arab, chairman and managing director

Iran | Bank Saderat Iran

Bank Saderat Iran has the largest banking network in the country, with more than 3,400 branches and an estimated $60 billion in assets. The bank also has eight branches and a regional office in the United Arab Emirates that handles trade with Iran. Lebanon is another focus of the bank’s activities: It has five branches and a regional office there. Altogether, Bank Saderat has 28 international offices in 12 countries.

Mohammad Reza Pishro, CEO

Iraq | Bank of Baghdad

Bank of Baghdad is one of the largest of the 24 commercial banks that operate in Iraq. A subsidiary of Kuwait’s Burgan Bank, Bank of Baghdad is a member of the Kipco Group, which owns 60 companies in 24 countries. Bank of Baghdad has 20 subsidiaries in Iraq that are involved in such industries as insurance, construction materials, food and clothing. It has been listed on the Iraq Stock Exchange since 2004.

Faisal Al Haimus, CEO

Israel | Bank Hapoalim

Bank Hapoalim, Israel’s largest and highest-rated bank, operates 260 retail branches, including 23 serving the Arab-Israeli sector. It led the Israeli banking industry in 2014 in terms of earnings and equity. Bank Hapoalim has a leading 34% market share in the small business segment. The bank introduced the Poalim Wallet in 2014, for mobile payments, money transfers and purchases.

Zion Kenan, president and CEO

Jordan | Arab Bank

Arab Bank maintained a strong balance sheet and a high-quality loan portfolio in 2014, and posted a 15% rise in earnings. It demonstrated the ability to manage risks successfully in the 30 countries where it operates. Arab Bank’s return on equity has improved steadily in the past few years, and the coverage ratio for nonperforming loans has grown to 160%. The bank’s diversification enables it to receive 75% of its revenue from outside of its home base. It focuses on low-risk trade finance and supplies treasury services throughout the region from its service center in Bahrain.

Nemeh Sabbagh, CEO

Kuwait | National Bank of Kuwait

National Bank of Kuwait operates 165 branches in 15 countries and has long been the market leader in Kuwait, where it accounts for more than half of the banking industry’s profits. NBK is building its strength in Islamic banking with its 58.4% stake in Kuwait-based Boubyan Bank. With a focus on customer satisfaction, NBK has expanded to nine countries in the Middle East and North Africa. It is among the highest-rated banks in the region, with a conservative management and a record of sustainable growth.

Isam Jassim Al Sager, group CEO

Lebanon | Bank Audi

Bank Audi is the largest and highest-rated bank in Lebanon. Its operations in 12 external countries contributed 42% of earnings in 2014. Odea Bank in Turkey, the first foreign bank licensed there in 12 years, contributed to Bank Audi’s 15% growth in earnings. The bank has nearly reached its goal of balanced activity between Lebanon and abroad. In September 2014, Bank Audi completed a $300 million capital increase by way of a rights offering and a $60 million purchase of shares by the International Finance Corporation.

Samir Hanna, group CEO

Oman | BankMuscat

BankMuscat complements its network of 139 branches with the largest network of e-channels in Oman. The bank is the leading provider of corporate and investment banking services in the country. Its asset-management division is the sultanate’s biggest wealth manager. In a little over two years, BankMuscat’s Meethaq Islamic banking unit has become the leader in the industry in Oman. BankMuscat had a 7.3% increase in earnings last year and a capital adequacy ratio of 15.9%

AbdulRazak Ali Issa, CEO

Palestine | Bank of Palestine

Bank of Palestine, the largest Palestinian bank, has 54 branches in the West Bank and Gaza. Its profits were flat last year, but its assets rose 3.27% to $2.4 billion, and its nonperforming loan ratio remained low at 2.21%. The bank has a market share of some 23% of deposits and loans in Palestine and more than 600,000 customers. Its PalPay (Palestinian payments) subsidiary was active last year, increasing transactions by 26%.

Hashim Shawa, chairman and general manager

Qatar | Qatar National Bank

Qatar National Bank is the biggest bank in Qatar, with about 45% of banking sector assets. It is 50% owned by the Qatar Investment Authority, the country’s sovereign wealth fund, and has one of the highest credit ratings in the region. In 2014, QNB earned $2.9 billion, an increase of 10.3% from a year earlier. The bank employs 14,500 people and operates in 26 countries. In September 2014, QNB became the leading shareholder in Ecobank, after increasing its stake to 23.5% with the purchase of an additional 11% interest in the pan-African lender.

Ali Ahmed Al-Kuwari, group CEO

Saudi Arabia | Samba Financial Group

Samba Financial Group, the highest-rated bank in Saudi Arabia, reported an 11.1% rise in earnings for 2014 and a 6% increase in assets. In addition to its UK operations, Samba has expanded internationally in the UAE, Pakistan and Qatar. Samba’s Smart Treasury Electronic Platform, STEP, has been implemented in all 72 Samba branches in the kingdom. The bank is the leading issuer of credit cards in Saudi Arabia and offers “instant” approvals for new credit cards at its branches. Samba Capital was the top Islamic financing bookrunner in Europe, the Middle East and Africa last year.

Eisa Al-Eisa, chairman

United Arab Emirates | National Bank of Abu Dhabi

National Bank of Abu Dhabi, one of the world’s 25 safest banks, has 125 branches in the UAE, and is the country’s largest lender. NBAD also has an international network of 60 branches in 18 countries. The Abu Dhabi government-controlled bank’s earnings rose 18% in 2014, and total assets were up 16% on healthy loan and deposit growth. NBAD was joint bookrunner for the Emaar Malls initial public offering, the largest in Dubai since 2007.  It also was joint bookrunner for the first-ever sukuk for non-Islamic sovereigns from both the UK and Hong Kong.

Alex Thursby, group CEO

Yemen | Yemen Commercial Bank

The first private bank formed by local businessmen after the unification of North and South Yemen in 1990, YCB has grown to 22 branches. Before the recent conflict in this country on the southern Arabian peninsula, YCB posted solid growth in earnings and assets. The bank offers a wide range of electronic banking products and services. SabaCard, a venture of YCB and Al Rowaishan Group, provides Visa and MasterCard payments and processing services in Yemen.

Ayed Al-Mashni, general manager and executive president



Access to banking services at a reasonable cost is becoming more common in Africa, thanks to the spread of mobile telephone service in rural and remote areas where landlines are out of the question. There is a growing competition between telecom providers and banks for the right to offer basic, no-frills mobile banking accounts. There is also a growing collaboration by the two sectors on more-advanced digital banking services.

In Kenya, telecom network operator Safaricom handles $26 billion in mobile payments annually through M-Pesa. Now, Kenya’s two biggest banks are getting in on the action. Equity Bank acquired a telecom license of its own last year and plans to introduce a mobile virtual network, while KCB has joined with Safaricom to offer M-Pesa users savings accounts and payroll products.

Regional Winner | Standard Bank

Standard Bank, Africa’s largest bank by assets, signed the closing documents in February to sell a 60% stake in its London subsidiary to Industrial and Commercial Bank of China. The proceeds from the transaction will be used to further strengthen Standard Bank’s operations on the African continent. The South Africa—based bank has operations in 20 countries, where it has been introducing innovative products, such as contactless cards and mobile payment solutions. Offerings released last year include Pay-Plus in Ghana, Till2Bank in partnership with M-Pesa in Kenya, and iServe in Malawi.

Standard Bank is distributing insurance and new risk products for the African market, where only 3% of the population has any form of insurance. Within South Africa, Standard Bank’s AccessBanking solutions have opened up a market of almost 10 million new customers by bringing underprivileged people into the mainstream economy.

Standard Bank posted a 20% rise in earnings from continuing operations in 2014 and raised its dividend by 12%. The bank’s net interest income rose 15%, and it lowered its loan-loss provisions by 2%, as nonperforming loans outside of South Africa declined. While South Africa’s economy grew only 1.5% last year, hampered by mining strikes and electricity shortages, GDP growth in sub-Saharan Africa was 5%.

Ben Kruger and Sim Tshabalala, group CEOs (joint)

Algeria | Arab Banking Corp Algeria

Arab Banking Corporation Algeria is a universal bank serving retail and corporate customers through a head office in Algiers and 23 branches. It is a subsidiary of Bahrain-based Arab Banking Corporation. The bank’s corporate and trade finance activities provided much of its profits in Algeria in recent years, but it is expanding into home loans, known as “souka,” and insurance. The decline in oil prices has forced Algeria to postpone several projects, but the country has nearly $200 billion in foreign exchange reserves and plans to maintain spending on social programs.

Noreddin Nahawi, CEO

Angola | Standard Bank Angola

Standard Bank Angola has built up its loan book, while keeping nonperforming loans at a low level. The Angolan bank is also a full-service investment bank. It has slowed the pace of its branch expansion in the country, where it now has a presence in nearly every province. Petroleum exports account for 95% of Angola’s international trade, but Standard Bank conducts less than half its business with the oil industry.

Pedro Coelho, CEO

Botswana | Standard Chartered Bank Botswana

Standard Chartered opened its first branch in Botswana in 1897, and it now has a network of 19 branches in the country. The local economy relies heavily on diamond mining, and Standard Chartered provides financial support to the industry. The bank is also funding small and medium enterprises, which are helping the economy to diversify. Recent strong loan growth has bolstered the bank’s profitability.

Moatlhodi Lekaukau, CEO

Burkina Faso | United Bank for Africa (Burkina Faso)

United Bank for Africa, a leading pan-African bank with operations in 19 African countries, has 26 branches in Burkina Faso. That makes it the group’s largest banking operation outside of its home market of Nigeria. Burkina Faso, a landlocked country in West Africa, is part of the CFA franc zone. UBA offers a prepaid Visa card and has insurance and stock brokerage affiliates.

Alphonse Kadjo, managing director and CEO

Cameroon | United Bank for Africa (Cameroon)

United Bank for Africa is one of the biggest issuers of payment cards in Africa. In partnership with MasterCard, UBA is introducing payment cards in all 19 countries where it is present. UBA has 15 branches in Cameroon, where it began operating in 2007. The bank focuses on lending to the oil and gas, telecom and agricultural sectors.

Udom Isong, CEO

CÔte d’Ivoire | Société Générale de Banques en Côte d’Ivoire

Société Générale de Banques en Côte d’Ivoire is the country’s largest bank. Established in 1962, it has 67 branches and has securities/custody and asset management affiliates. The bank plans to open as many as 10 new branches this year and has boosted profitability on a sharp rise in loans. Côte d’Ivoire’s economy has been growing rapidly in recent years following decades of political instability.

Hubert de Saint Jean

Democratic Republic of Congo | Trust Merchant Bank

TMB, a locally owned, independent bank, operates in every major city and province of the country with its 74-branch network. The bank’s mobile banking service, Pepele, offers payment and money-transfer services, as well as deposits and withdrawals. It is also used to manage the payrolls of 29% of Congo’s civil service employees. TMB has maintained a high level of profitability owing to its local insight and customer service.

Oliver Meisenberg, CEO

Djibouti | BCIMR

Red Sea Trade and Industry Bank—BCIMR according to its French initials—has a 60% market share in Djibouti in terms of loans and deposits. BCIMR is a subsidiary of Bred Banque Populaire, part of BPCE Group, which holds a 51% stake. The Djibouti government holds a 33% share. BCIMR specializes in trade finance and offers a full range of banking services. It has a branch in Somalia and recently opened a representative office in Ethiopia.

Jean-Pierre Gianotti, CEO

Ethiopia | Commercial Bank of Ethiopia

Commercial Bank of Ethiopia, the country’s largest bank, has 919 branches and more than 63% of the country’s bank deposits. The government-owned bank opened more than 150 new branches last year, as the economy continued its fast growth. Largely agricultural Ethiopia is rapidly industrializing under the government’s growth and transformation plan.

Bekalu Zeleke, president

Gambia | Standard Chartered Bank Gambia

Standard Chartered, the country’s oldest financial institution, has been operating in Gambia since 1894. The bank has five branches and five off-site ATMs. Remittances from Gambians living abroad are the country’s main source of foreign exchange. Standard Chartered derives about 70% of its local earnings from FX.

Humphrey Mukwereza, CEO

Ghana | GCB Bank

GCB Bank is the largest bank in Ghana. GCB is well capitalized and has invested heavily in technology to upgrade customer service. Ghana recently secured a $1 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund to stabilize the economy. Real GDP growth slowed to less than 4% last year amid power shortages, following several years of 8% annual growth.

Simon Dornoo, managing director

Guinea | FBN Bank Guinea

FBN Bank Guinea is a subsidiary of FirstBank of Nigeria, which acquired it from International Commercial Bank in November 2013. All of its branches are currently in Conakry, the capital city, but FBN Bank plans to open an “up-country” branch. While Guinea’s economy has been affected by the Ebola virus and grew only 0.5% last year, FBN Bank’s loan portfolio rose 7.7%.

Akeem Oladele, CEO

Kenya | Equity Bank

Equity Bank Kenya’s parent group posted a 29% growth in earnings for 2014, as well as a 24% increase in its balance sheet. The regional financial services firm says all of its subsidiaries in East Africa contributed to the rise in profits. Equity Bank Kenya recently introduced a contactless, prepaid card in conjunction with MasterCard for use in paying bus fares in Kenya and for shopping worldwide.

James Mwangi, CEO and managing director

Madagascar | Bank of Africa—Madagascar

Bank of Africa—Madagascar has 65 branches in this island country off the east coast of Africa. The bank accounts for about a third of Madagascar’s bank lending. Bank of Africa—Madagascar offers mobile banking services in partnership with Airtel Money.

René Formey de Saint Louvent, managing director

Mali | Bank of Africa—Mali

Landlocked Mali, with a poverty rate of 43%, is struggling to get its economy growing again, following a 2012 coup. It depends heavily on international aid. Bank of Africa, which has operations in 16 countries, maintains its group headquarters in Bamako, Mali’s capital city, where it was founded in 1982. BMCE Bank in Morocco is Bank of Africa’s largest shareholder.

Mamadou Igor Diarra, managing director

Mauritius | Barclays Bank of Mauritius

The island nation of Mauritius in the Indian Ocean is an important offshore banking center with a well-developed infrastructure. Barclays Bank has 25 branches in the country, where it was the first international bank to establish operations in 1919.

Ravin Dajee, managing director

Morocco | Attijariwafa Bank

Attijariwafa Bank, the leading bank in Morocco, operates in 23 countries, with a network of 3,300 branches. It acquired a majority stake in BIA-Togo in 2013, the same year it opened its first branch in Niger. Attijariwafa is present in 12 African countries and has branches in Europe and the Middle East. It partnered with Qatar National Bank to promote mutual business in capital markets, trade finance and investment flows between Qatar and Morocco.

Mohamed El Kettani, chairman and CEO

Mozambique | Millennium bim

Millennium bim is Mozambique’s largest bank, with a nationwide network of 166 branches. Portugal’s Millennium bcp is the majority owner. The Millennium (Z) mobile-banking service is expanding rapidly in rural areas of the country. Customers can use it to buy prepaid electricity vouchers and to check their meter readings. The bank’s return on equity was 22.3% last year.

Manuel Marecos Duarte, CEO

Namibia | Bank Windhoek

Bank Windhoek, a subsidiary of Capricorn Investment Holdings, has 51 branches in this sparsely populated desert nation in Southwest Africa. The bank’s noninterest income rose 16.4% last year, reflecting growth in transaction banking and electronic banking channels. Namibia’s economy relies on mining for much of its export earnings and is closely linked to that of South Africa.

Christo de Vries, managing director

Nigeria | FirstBank of Nigeria

FirstBank of Nigeria, the country’s largest bank by assets, issued a $450 million eurobond last year to extend the maturity of its debt and to support lending to the corporate sector. The bank has 867 branches. In 2013, FirstBank acquired four banks in West Africa from International Commercial Bank.

Olabisi Onasanya, group managing director and CEO

Rwanda | Bank of Kigali

The largest bank in Rwanda by assets, Bank of Kigali controls about a third of the country’s bank lending. By opening new branches and introducing new products and services, the bank increased its assets by 23.5% in fiscal 2014, ended last September. The well-capitalized bank has a nationwide network of 70 branches. In addition to serving large corporations, it is the leading lender to SMEs.

James Gatera, CEO

Senegal | Bank of Africa—Senegal

Bank of Africa has 28 branches in Senegal, where it has been growing rapidly. The bank partnered with French telecom Orange to offer mobile banking services. The capital city of Dakar is home to the Central Bank of West African States, which serves eight countries in the region that belong to an economic and monetary union.

Laurent Basque, managing director

Sierra Leone | Standard Chartered Bank Sierra Leone

Standard Chartered Bank has operated for 120 years in Sierra Leone. The mineral-rich country’s economic growth has been blunted by the Ebola outbreak. The International Monetary Fund recently approved $115 million in financing and debt relief to help the government deal with the crisis. Sierra Leone’s mineral exports include diamonds, titanium, iron ore and bauxite.

Albert Saltson, CEO

South Africa | FirstRand Bank

FirstRand, Africa’s largest bank by market capitalization, had a return on equity of 24.2% in the year through June 2014. FirstRand relies on transaction banking for about 36% of revenue. Its focus has been on South Africa, although it is cautiously expanding its reach throughout the continent. FirstRand has a provisional license in Ghana and could beef up its rep offices in Angola and Kenya.

Sizwe Errol Nxasana, group CEO

Togo | Ecobank Togo

Ecobank Togo, the oldest bank in the Ecobank group, has 23 branches and a market share of approximately 25%. Togo hosts the headquarters of Ecobank Transnational, the parent company of the pan-African banking group.

Didier Alexandre Correa, managing director

Tunisia | Banque Internationale | Arabe de Tunisie

BIAT, the largest private-sector bank in Tunisia, opened 16 new branches last year, bringing the total to 185 branches. In addition to retail and commercial banking, BIAT offers capital markets services, insurance, brokerage and mutual funds. The bank has increased provisions to cover a rise in nonperforming loans.

Mohamed Agrebi, CEO

Uganda | Barclays Bank of Uganda

Barclays has 51 branches in Uganda, where it commenced operations in 1927. The bank has been upgrading its services this year, including Prestige Banking, which offers express service, life insurance and a Visa platinum debit card. Its new CashSend program enables customers to send money to anyone with a mobile phone and access to a Barclays ATM.

Rakesh Jha, managing director and CEO

Zambia | Standard Chartered Bank Zambia

Standard Chartered, one of the largest and most profitable banks in Zambia, has 25 branches and a market share of about 20%. Standard Chartered’s mobile banking service is available on all three telecom networks in Zambia: Airtel, MTN and Zamtel. Zambia relies on copper for 75% of its export earnings.

Andrew Okai, CEO

Zimbabwe | Stanbic Bank Zimbabwe

Stanbic Bank Zimbabwe, part of Standard Bank Group, posted a 13% rise in earnings in 2014 on a 10% rise in net interest income. The bank operates 20 branches in Zimbabwe, where its customers in the mining and energy sectors are experiencing improved cash flows. The bank’s return on equity declined to 27% last year from 33% in 2013, as it continued to build up capital to meet the Reserve Bank’s $100 million minimum capital requirement by 2020.

Joshua Tapambgwa, CEO



America’s best regional commercial banks grew up serving small companies in local industries like oil and gas in the Southwest, technology on the West Coast, agriculture in the Midwest, and logistics in the Southeast. Because they’re well versed in the cyclical downturns of these industries, they can easily judge the credit-worthiness of local borrowers and take risks on commercial loans that larger, nationwide banks would not touch, says Jefferson Harralson, a banking analyst at Keefe, Bruyette & Woods in Atlanta.

The better regional commercial banks serve their clients, the faster they grow through acquisitions, expanding beyond their home states and even across regional lines, reaching a size where they are now competing with nationwide banks for bigger local clients. The trouble is that the faster they grow, the more likely they are to be acquired. The drivers behind the M&A boom are two-fold: once such banks reach $10 billion in assets, they face compliance headaches under the Dodd-Frank Act —which gives them a motive to build up economies of scale to cover the cost of compliance; plus, they face a cap on fees they can charge retailers for debit card transactions. As a result, many regional banks are actively trying to sell themselves to larger ones—and even to global players, explains Matt Olney, a banking analyst at boutique investment firm Stephens.

New England | Eastern Bank

Founded in 1818 and based in Boston, Eastern Bank is America’s largest and oldest mutually owned bank. Eastern’s assets grew 9% last year, to $9.5 billion, with its acquisition of Centrix Bank & Trust of New Hampshire. While net income fell 10.5%, to $55.1 million, in part due to the $134 million Centrix acquisition, the bank’s commercial and industrial loan portfolio grew by 55%, to $1.1 billion.

Richard Holbrook, CEO and chairman

Mid-Atlantic | Signature Bank

Based in New York City, Signature has a 1% share of the greater metropolitan area’s deposit market. The bank has grown its loan teams by poaching them from national banks. Net income reached a record high of $296.7 million last year, up 29.7% from 2013. Assets grew by 22%, to $27.3 billion. Loans were up 7.9%, driven mainly by commercial real estate and specialty finance.

Joseph DePaolo, CEO

Great Lakes | Fifth Third Bancorp

Headquartered in Cincinnati, Ohio, Fifth Third had $139 billion in assets as of the end of December 2014 and operates 15 affiliates in Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana, Michigan, Illinois, Florida, Tennessee, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Missouri, Georgia and North Carolina. The bank extended more than $8.6 billion in loans to business customers between October and December last year.

Kevin Kabat, CEO

Plains | Commerce Bancshares

With a 150-year history, Kemper-family-run Commerce Bancshares is headquartered in Kansas City, Missouri. Its branches are located in Kansas, Missouri, Colorado, Illinois and Oklahoma. In addition to corporate banking, the bank is active in credit-related insurance, venture capital and real estate. The bank had $24 billion in assets as of December 31, up 4% from a year earlier. Total loans were $11.5 billion, up 5% from a year earlier.

David Kemper, CEO

Southeast | BankUnited

Recapitalized in 2009, BankUnited is known as a lender to growing middle-market businesses in Florida and, to some extent, New York. BankUnited’s assets grew by 28% to $19.2 billion as of December 31, from a year earlier. Experiencing very minor loan and lease losses, the bank’s net loans grew 37% last year.

John Kanas, CEO

Southwest | Comerica

Known for its expertise in the energy industry, which accounts for about two-thirds of its customers, Comerica’s headquarters are in Dallas, Texas. The bank has offices in California, Arizona and Mexico. Net income rose 10% last year, up to $593 million, thanks in large part to cost-cutting measures. Average total deposits increased by 6%, to $54.8 billion. With total assets of $69.2 billion as of December 31, Comerica ranks as the 25th-largest bank in the US.

Ralph Babb, Jr., CEO

Rocky Mountains | Glacier Bancorp

Headquartered in Kalispell, Montana, Glacier Bancorp is growing rapidly through acquisition. Glacier already owns several banks in Montana, Idaho, Utah and Washington. It acquired First National Bank of the Rockies last year, and on March 2, it announced that it had completed its acquisition of Community Bank of Montana. Total assets grew 5.4% last year, to $8.3 billion as of December 31. Net income was up 17.9%.

Michael Blodnick, CEO and president

Far West | Umpqua Bank

Headquartered in Portland, Oregon, Umpqua acquired Sterling Financial last April. Operating earnings for the year ended December 31 increased 91% from a year earlier. Total consolidated assets doubled to $22.6 million last year. Gross loans grew by $68.5 million last year, to $15.3 billion.

Ray Davis, CEO and president