Cover Story: World’s Best Banks 2009

Global Finance unveils its annual list of the best global, regional and country banks.


By Gordon Platt


coverstory1Much has changed in the banking world over the past year—although not as much as might have been expected at the start of 2009. Many of the world’s leading banks have returned to profitability and repaid government bailouts. The industry is clearly in much better shape than it was a year ago, but there is still a tendency to hoard capital, and banks remain reluctant to lend, even to creditworthy borrowers. Meanwhile, banks continue to build up their loan-loss provisions in anticipation of more trouble down the road, as unemployment continues to rise in many countries despite an end to the global recession. Potential losses in credit cards and commercial real estate are still keeping some bankers awake at night.


Of course, conditions vary in markets around the world. Among emerging market banks, those in China and India have performed well, whereas those in Central and Eastern Europe are still struggling. Many of the smaller emerging markets that were initially isolated from the effects of the subprime mortgage crisis have been hit by the ensuing decline in global trade.


Some banks in developed markets have been successful in rebuilding their capital through rights offerings and the placement of shares. They are now in a position to take advantage of the opportunities that the financial crisis and recession have created. The US housing market, where the troubles began, is finally showing signs of recovery. Many issues remain to be sorted out, however, particularly the need for new regulations to prevent future financial crises.


In the United States, President Barack Obama has proposed to increase regulation and government oversight of the financial sector. The idea of a single banking regulator, however, seems to be making little headway. More likely, banks will be required to maintain higher levels of capital, and a new agency could be created to protect the interests of consumers using credit cards or taking out home mortgages.


In Europe, there is broad agreement that more needs to be done to monitor the financial system as a whole. The European Commission has proposed higher capital requirements for securitizations, as well as stronger disclosure requirements. It also wants to reform bank remuneration policies so that they do not encourage or reward excessive risk taking. National supervisory authorities would be called upon to enforce the new policies.


Many of the best-run banks were relatively unscathed by the financial crisis, as reflected by the number of repeat winners in this year’s survey, although the majority were forced to rely at least briefly on taxpayer funding.


Global Finance has identified the best banks in 123 countries, as well as the best banks globally in 11 key banking categories. We have been presenting these awards since 1997.


In selecting this year’s winners, Global Finance’s editorial team as usual considered factors that range from the objective to the informed subjective. Objective criteria included growth in assets, profitability, geographic reach, strategic relationships, new business development and product innovation. Subjective criteria included the opinions of equity and credit-rating analysts, banking consultants and others in the industry, as well as corporate and financial executives.


The winners are not always the biggest banks but rather the best banks—those with the qualities that corporations should look for when choosing a bank. These are banks with effective risk-management systems, excellent service and good corporate governance.


Within this listing of the World’s Best Banks we have included our April 2009 list of the Best Developed Market Banks and our May 2009 list of the Best Emerging Market Banks.










World’s Best Banks Global


Best Corporate Bank

JPMorgan Chase


If any bank can be said to have benefited from the global financial crisis, it is JPMorgan Chase. A major international bank with assets of over $2 trillion, it operates in 60 countries and serves many of the world’s major corporations, as well as tens of thousands of smaller and middle-market companies. Its investment bank, J.P. Morgan, was number one in worldwide debt and equity underwriting in the first half of 2009. It was ranked number three worldwide in advising on mergers and acquisitions. JPMorgan Chase’s profit of $2.7 billion in the second quarter was the first clear indication that the banking industry turned the corner. The well-capitalized bank has smoothly assimilated its acquisitions last year of Bear Stearns and Washington Mutual. One of the top commercial banks in market share, it offers a full range of services, including lending, treasury services and investment management. It is a leader in asset-based lending and equipment finance. Between its commercial bankers and its investment bank, JPMorgan Chase is capable of meeting the wide-ranging needs of its corporate customers, and it tailors its offerings to meet their specific requirements.


James Dimon, chairman and CEO

Best Consumer Bank



f01While its acquisition of US consumer lender Household International in 2003 was clearly a mistake, UK-based HSBC remains the world’s leading consumer bank, with an extensive presence in local markets, especially in Asia, where its roots are. The bank earned $5 billion in the first half of 2009, despite a sharp rise in non-performing loans as a result of the global recession. HSBC is conservatively managed, and it was not forced to take any bailout funds from the British government. The bank takes something of a cookie-cutter approach to its global operations, which ensures a standard level of service and access to sophisticated electronic platforms but detracts from its ability to specialize. It makes up for this in many cases, however, with its deep roots and knowledge of local markets. It serves 41 million people worldwide with a wide range of savings, investment and insurance products.


Stephen Green, group chairman


Best Private Bank

Credit Suisse


f02Credit Suisse reported a profit of $1.5 billion in the second quarter of 2009, an increase of 29% from the same period a year earlier, as it gained market share in many areas. Its private bank benefited from the problems at rival UBS, which has been involved in a long-running dispute with the US government over offshore tax avoidance. Credit Suisse also has benefited from growth at its investment banking business and its limited exposure to toxic assets related to the subprime mortgage market. The bank turned to Middle East investors to rebuild its capital instead of accepting money from the government. Credit Suisse boasts a high gross margin in wealth management and a solid net inflow of funds. Its retail business, however, has felt the effects of a weak economy, and the bank has been forced to sharply increase provisions for credit losses.


Credit Suisse is prepared to make acquisitions to expand its private-banking business. There could be opportunities for it to acquire smaller Swiss banks unable to compete in the stricter compliance environment. Credit Suisse is eager to serve more high-net-worth clients in Asia, which is expected to lead future growth.


Brady Dougan, CEO


Best Emerging Markets Bank

Standard Chartered


f03UK-based Standard Chartered earns 90% of its income and profits in Asia, Africa and the Middle East. It has 1,750 branches in 70 countries. The bank’s income rose 14% in the first half of 2009 to a record $8 billion, while its earnings rose 10% to a record $2.8 billion. Standard Chartered raised $1.6 billion through a share placement in August and is ready to take advantage of opportunities arising from the financial crisis. In July it completed the acquisition of the remaining 75% of the shares it did not already own in pan-African mergers and acquisitions advisory firm First Africa. In December 2008 Standard Chartered raised its stake to 74.9% in the India-based securities firm formerly known as UTI Securities. Standard Chartered plans to take full control of the firm by next year.


Peter Sands, group CEO


Best Asset Management Bank

State Street Global Advisors


State Street Global Advisors (SSgA), the investment management arm of Boston-based State Street, is the world’s largest manager of institutional assets and one of the largest providers of exchange-traded funds (ETFs) in the United States and globally. SSgA manages more than $290 billion for 66 central banks and government clients. As of June 30, 2009, the firm had $1.6 trillion in assets under management. US assets under management for Standard & Poor’s depositary receipt (SPDR) ETFs totaled more than $143 billion. SSgA’s parent, State Street, announced a loss of $3.3 billion in the second quarter of 2009 as it consolidated its asset-backed commercial paper conduits onto its balance sheet. State Street passed the Federal Reserve’s stress test in May and conducted a successful equity and debt offering. It also repaid US government investments under the Troubled Asset Relief Program.


Scott Powers, president and CEO


Best Custody Bank

The Bank of New York Mellon


f04The Bank of New York Mellon is the world’s biggest custody bank, with more than $20 trillion in assets under custody and administration. The bank reported a 43% decline in earnings to $176 million for the second quarter from the same period a year ago, after repaying the $3 billion it received last year as part of the US government’s Troubled Asset Relief Program. The bank’s overall revenue has stabilized, and it continues to gain market share and remain profitable. It is still feeling the effects of the housing crisis, however, with investment losses on residential mortgage-backed securities. The Bank of New York Mellon operates in 34 countries and 100 markets. In June it celebrated its 225th anniversary.


Robert Kelly, chairman and CEO


Best Investment Bank

J.P. Morgan


J.P. Morgan’s government-assisted acquisition of Bear Stearns in March 2008 provided it with a raft of new talent that has helped it to rise to the top in investment banking. J.P. Morgan ranked first for global debt underwriting for the first half of 2009, with $318 billion of issues. The bank showed continued strength in investment-grade and agency underwriting, according to Thomson Reuters. The bank also led first-half equity and equity-related rankings, with $53.5 billion in proceeds and a strong increase in market share. J.P. Morgan ranked third in global mergers and acquisitions advisory work in the first half, behind Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley.


Steven Black and William Winters, co-CEOs of investment banking


Best Cash Management Bank



f05Citi’s Global Transaction Services unit provides treasury and trade services, as well as securities and fund services. The bank’s Treasury Vision and Online Investment platform continues to set the standard when it comes to integrating online cash management, investment and web-based treasury management. The bank operates in 140 countries and is able to deliver economies of scale. Citi reported earnings of $4.3 billion for the second quarter of 2009, but this included a $6.7 billion after-tax gain associated with the Morgan Stanley Smith Barney transaction, which created a joint venture brokerage firm. Citi’s headcount declined by about 30,000 from the first quarter of 2009, to 279,000, mainly reflecting the Smith Barney deal.



Francesco Vanni d’Archirafi, head of global transaction services

Best Trade Finance Bank

BNP Paribas


BNP Paribas is France’s largest bank and its leading provider of trade services such as letters of credit and bank guarantees. It operates a network of 93 trade centers around the world with teams of advisers who specialize in all aspects of international trade. BNP Paribas reported a 6.6% increase in second-quarter 2009 earnings, aided by the acquisition of Fortis assets and the much-improved performance of the corporate and investment bank. The French bank has acquired the Belgian and Luxembourg banking assets of Fortis, which was once Belgium’s leading financial services firm.


Baudouin Prot, CEO


Best Foreign Exchange Bank

Deutsche Bank


f06Frankfurt-based Deutsche Bank, Germany’s biggest bank, is the world’s leading provider of foreign exchange services. According to Connecticut-based Greenwich Associates, Deutsche Bank’s market penetration has reached 73% of the most-active users of foreign exchange products worldwide. The bank’s second-quarter earnings rose 67% from a year earlier to $1.6 billion, as its investment banking business stabilized. Its trading businesses were strong, including foreign exchange, money markets and interest rate trading. The bank is active in financial markets in 80 countries. Deutsche Bank’s FX4Cash product offers cross-border payment services.



Zar Amrolia, global head of foreign exchange


Best Sub-Custody Bank



HSBC is a leading provider of sub-custody services to international investors in 39 markets worldwide. It is the only bank providing sub-custody and clearing services in many of these markets, which it entered as soon as foreign investors were allowed in. HSBC uses its knowledge of local markets to support its customers’ operations in many emerging markets. It offers information services to keep them abreast of changes in market structures and other developments. As a sub-custodian, HSBC provides custody, clearing and various types of securities services to global custodians, fund managers, brokers, dealers and institutions worldwide. It is responsible for the safekeeping of $2 trillion in client assets.


Stephen Green, group chairman


World’s Best Banks North America



Butterfield Bank


Celebrating 150 years of operation in 2008, Butterfield Bank remains Bermuda’s largest independent bank, offering a full range of community banking services, as well as international financial services such as private banking, asset management and personal trust services. Butterfield was busy in its anniversary year, with the completion of a merger between Butterfield Fund Services and the Fulcrum Group to form a new Bermuda-based company, Butterfield Fulcrum Group (BFG), in September 2008. The deal put the new group in the top-10 of global alternative asset fund administration companies.


As well as being strategically advantageous, the creation of BFG also delivered a one-time gain of $115.5 million in the third quarter of 2008. Butterfield admirably wrote down $29.2 million on previously capitalized investments in technology as part of a migration of its core information and technology systems to a common information technology platform. This move is due to be completed in 2010 and is likely to be more than offset over the medium term through operational savings from systems duplication and licensing fees, and will enhance customer services.


Alan Thompson, president and CEO





Along with banks in almost all developed markets, Canada’s leading banks—Royal Bank of Canada and Scotiabank—had a tough fourth quarter (which ended October 31, 2008). Based on that quarter alone, RBC would likely be judged the better bank of the two. Scotiabank’s earnings per share (EPS) fell by a catastrophic 70.5% while RBC’s dropped a more moderate 19.8%. Similarly, Scotiabank’s net income was down by 66% compared to a 15% fall at RBC. And Scotiabank’s return on equity (ROE) was a pitiful 6% compared to RBC’s 16.1%.


However, over the full year the two banks are more evenly matched, with Scotiabank suffering a 23.9% fall in EPS versus 19.33% at RBC and a 22% slump in net income versus a 17% fall at RBC. Moreover, their ROEs are evenly matched at 17% for Scotiabank and 18% for RBC.


Scotiabank is this year’s winner for a number of reasons. First of all, its five-year ROE enjoys a commanding lead over RBC. And, second, Scotiabank’s core business in Canadian banking, international banking and Scotia Capital continues to look strong: Excluding the $642 million write-down related to the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy and valuation adjustments, net income for the fourth quarter was flat on the previous year—a remarkable achievement given market conditions.


Rick Waugh, president and CEO


United States

JPMorgan Chase


Standing tall: JPMorgan Chase’s New York headquarters building

A year ago Goldman Sachs looked like one of the strongest banks on Wall Street following a series of successful calls on the subprime crisis; it was a serious contender for best bank in the United States and was only narrowly beaten by JPMorgan Chase. Now Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley have given up their investment bank status (in September 2008, to get access to federal funds) and are rapidly trying to develop broader business models that look remarkably like that of JPMorgan Chase.


JPMorgan Chase has looked like a winner throughout the crisis. To be sure, it has received $25 billion from the Troubled Asset Relief Program. But it also reported a fourth-quarter profit of $702 million. Moreover, JPMorgan Chase has received what looks like official recognition of its survivor status: In castigating some banks for their foolish policies, President Barack Obama specifically cited JPMorgan Chase and its chief executive, Jamie Dimon, as examples of good management during the crisis.


James Dimon, chairman and CEO


World’s Best Banks Europe



International Commercial Bank


Few banks were able to increase their return on equity in 2008, but International Commercial Bank was an exception: ROE reached 10.67% last year compared to 9.72% a year earlier. While non-performing loans (NPLs) grew to 5.81% from 5.03% in 2007, they remained well below 2006’s 12.53%. Moreover, there is every hope that International Commercial Bank has learned from its experience in 2006: Lending growth has been kept to sustainable levels—the loan portfolio grew by 23.6% in 2008—while income growth from other areas of the bank has been impressive. Income from remittances grew by 14.58%, income from treasury operations—a particularly lucrative and attractive area of banking, given its recurring revenues—grew by 68%, and income from foreign exchange rocketed by 179%. At the same time, International Commercial Bank has put customer satisfaction at the heart of its offering, with new products such as a Senior Citizens Deposit Scheme as well as new micro-lending offerings broadening the bank’s product base.


Mahendra Singh Rawat, CEO



Bank Austria


Earlier this year the storm clouds were certainly gathering for the UniCredit Group. After reporting a decline of 57% in Q4 2008 net profits, UniCredit said it would seek up to €4 billion in government funds from Italy and Austria in order to boost capital. With the economic environment in Central and Eastern Europe rapidly deteriorating, 2009 looked like it could be challenging. However, in the first six months of this year, Bank Austria’s operating profit was €2 billion, an increase of 50% on the corresponding period a year ago. Moreover, consolidated profit for the first nine months of 2008 was €1.64 billion—slightly higher than the previous year’s level. And while the bank looks to be seeking additional capital, it has already raised €6 billion through a rights issue and innovative convertible bond offering.


Erich Hampel, CEO





With the Belarus economy taking a sharp turn for the worse—the country is a recipient of IMF loans—conditions are getting tougher for banks. However, 2008 was a vintage year for state-owned Belarusbank, which is by far the largest financial institution in the country and the bedrock of the economy. Assets grew by a staggering 160.5% and net profit by 74.4%. Moreover, loan and deposit growth—at 147.1% and 149.6%—have been evenly matched, which could prove a significant factor in weathering worsening economic conditions. Indeed, with a market share of 49% for customer deposits, there is no bank better placed to weather the downturn than Belarusbank.


Despite its overwhelming dominance of the local market, Belarusbank has not rested on its laurels. The bank continues to innovate and in 2008 launched Internet banking and enhanced the functionality of its ATM network: Customers can now not only make payments but also buy railway tickets and even check lottery results.


Nadezhda Ermakova, chairperson of the board





Belgium’s banking sector is well and truly battered: The country’s largest bank, Fortis, has been split up following the farrago of its acquisition of some assets of ABN AMRO (in a competition for worst-run bank of 2008, Fortis would run a close second to the UK’s RBS, which was also involved in the debacle). Meanwhile, one of Belgium’s other large banks, Dexia, has also had to go cap in hand to the government. In such company, KBC shines as the healthiest bank in a sick banking sector. To be sure, the bank has received two injections of capital from the government: In October 2008 €3.5 billion was received as the bank crisis reached its peak, while in January this year a further €3.5 billion was pledged after the bank’s shares lost more than 70% of their value. But while KBC announced an annual loss of almost €2.5 billion for 2008—in the fourth quarter alone there was a net loss of €2.63 billion—there is evidence that the bank has successfully reduced its risks. Moreover, given the capital injections, the financial position of KBC looks solid, and underlying business performance is improving: January 2009 was a better month than January 2008.


André Bergen, CEO


Bosnia & Herzegovina

Raiffeisen Bank Bosna i Hercegovina


While Raiffeisen Bank Bosna i Hercegovina is only the second-largest bank in Bosnia and Herzegovina by assets—the first is Hypo Alpe Adria—it is the most profitable. Moreover, Raiffeisen Bank is growing fast: At the end of 2008 assets were 12.4% higher than a year earlier. Corporate banking performed strongly in 2008 for Raiffeisen Bank. Its network of regional corporate business centers and emphasis on constant service quality improvement helped to grow the loan portfolio by 34%, while the trade finance portfolio rose by 15%. The performance is all the more impressive given the slowdown in lending recorded in the second half of 2008. Sensibly, the bank has already introduced more stringent lending policies.


Meanwhile, Raiffeisen Bank’s retail loan book grew by 20% in 2008, and its total number of issued debit, credit and charge cards (both for individuals and for businesses) grew by 37% in 2008 to 325,000.


Michael Müller, CEO



Raiffeisenbank Bulgaria


With the outlook for the Bulgarian economy looking bleak, having already received funds from the IMF since the beginning of the year, Raiffeisenbank Bulgaria’s achievement of a 22% increase in profit after tax in 2008 is significant. Just as important, the bank substantially increased already large provisions for impairment losses, reflecting its conservative approach to risk management and building an important buffer for the future.


Moreover, while loan growth over the year reached 27%—an impressive figure but one that might elicit concern in the current environment—deposit growth has also been strong at 22% compared to just 7.5% in the banking market overall. With a capital base of 10.78% of the Bulgarian bank system’s capital (compared to 8.61% at the end of 2007) and total capital adequacy of more than 17% (significantly above the prescribed 12% and also above the average of 14.86% for the banking system), Raiffeisenbank Bulgaria has never looked stronger.


Momtchil Andreev, chairman and executive director



Privredna Banka Zagreb


f08Privredna Banka Zagreb (PBZ) had a strong 2008 despite a sharp slowdown in economic growth in the fourth quarter (though not a recession, as growth stayed just positive at 0.2% year-on-year). In 2008 PBZ’s net profit rose an impressive 18% on the previous year, and the bank enjoyed 10% growth in loans to small and medium-size companies and 28% growth in the safer large-company and state-loans market.


The bank appears to have paced itself during the good times and looks well positioned for a slowdown. By transferring its profit to retained earnings and by not paying out dividends, PBZ has maintained a high level of shareholders’ equity; consequently, it can boast a handsome capital adequacy ratio. Its strong showing in 2008 boosted that a further 2%.


Bozo Prka, president



Bank of Cyprus


Bank of Cyprus maintained high levels of profitability despite the negative international environment in 2008, with its conservative credit policy and selective growth strategy in new markets paying dividends. Group profit after tax for 2008 grew a moderate 4%, but, more importantly, return on equity was an impressive 25%. At the same time, total loans increased 29% compared to 2007, with the strongest growth outside the group’s core Cyprus and Greece markets. Deposits grew by 11% overall. Despite the apparent imbalance of loan and deposit growth, Bank of Cyprus has a strong loans-to-deposits ratio of 90% and minimal reliance on wholesale funding (13% of total funding). Moreover, despite the expansion of the group’s operations, the quality of its loan portfolio continued to improve, with the non-performing loans ratio decreasing to 3.7% from a year earlier. The bank may yet regret the timing of its acquisition of an 80% interest in Uniastrum Bank in Russia at the end of October 2008, but for the year under review it made a positive contribution to profit.


Andreas Eliades, group chief executive officer


Czech Republic



Raiffeisenbank enjoyed another record-breaking year in 2008, with net profit rising 39%—well above its main rivals—and all main segments performing well. The Czech Republic’s economy has been on a knife-edge in 2009 as industrial production slumped as a result of the collapse of global demand, but Raiffeisenbank has already taken precautionary measures, with a significant slowdown in lending toward the end of 2008. Mortgage sales, for example, were just a quarter of previous years while almost no long-term loans were made. At the same time, client deposits at the end of 2008 were up a fifth, with the strongest growth coming in the last two months of the year when both individuals and companies sought the perceived security of the Raiffeisenbank brand—a testament to the strength of the bank’s operation in the Czech Republic. Raiffeisenbank finalized its merger with eBanka, in which Raiffeisen International had acquired a majority in 2006, making it the fifth-largest bank in the Czech Republic.


Lubor Zalman, CEO



Danske Bank


Denmark produced one of the first casualties of the credit crisis with the collapse of Roskilde Bank in August 2008, and the turmoil in the capital markets and the economic slowdown had a huge effect on Danske Bank’ s 2008 results. Net profit sank to just DKr1.0 billion ($170 million) compared to DKr14.9 billion ($2.53 billion) in 2007 following loan impairment charges of DKr8.8 billion. The group also had to make huge impairment charges on its loan portfolio in the plummeting Irish market, where it operates through National Irish Bank. Similarly, market-related activities—in Danske Markets, Danske Capital and Danica Pension—produced a miserable 2008.


Nevertheless, the group’s main source of income—its banking activities—proved robust and generated satisfactory results. Excluding the guarantee commission payable to the Danish state for participation in the guarantee scheme for deposits and loans, expenses were flat on 2007, and, crucially, at the end of 2008 the bank met its liquidity targets with a core tier-one capital ratio of 9.2%. By deleveraging its balance sheet, reducing non-lending assets and further improving liquidity management, Danske Bank should be able to weather whatever storms the remainder of 2009 delivers and be well placed to prosper once the economic environment improves.


Peter Straarup, CEO





Estonia’s economy is in dire straits. It is set to shrink 10% this year and more than 2% in 2010. Such an environment is not propitious to successful banking. Moreover, Estonia—along with the other Baltic states, Latvia and Lithuania—was in trouble long before the global economic crisis took a turn for the worse in September and October 2008: All three countries were in recession in the first half of 2008, and Estonia’s GDP fell by 9.4% during 2008.


In the face of such challenges, Swedbank worked to improve efficiencies and coordinate product development and customer offerings across the Baltic region. In Estonia, lending increased by a moderate 6% in 2008, while loan losses from private customers and real estate management firms increased, maintaining Swedbank’s strong market position: It has 42% of the corporate lending market and 49% of the private loan market. Significantly, market share for deposits was 49%, giving Swedbank a level of stability that will prove important.


Priit Perens, head of Swedbank in Estonia



Pohjola Bank


When Pohjola Bank released its January-September 2008 figures, the immediate indication that all was not well was the concurrent announcement that the bank would launch a €300 million rights issue to recapitalize. Certainly, earnings before tax were lower, at €114 million compared to €220 million a year earlier, and EPS fell to €0.41 compared to €0.80.


However, the corporate loan portfolio and loan margins within the banking division showed sustained growth, and the operations posted good earnings. Moreover, Pohjola’s decision to come to market with a rights issue looks more like a prudent move and sound positioning for future opportunities rather than an emergency capital raising. At the end of 2008 Pohjola’s tier-one ratio was 9.6%—well above the bank’s own stated target of a minimum of 8.5% and the minimum regulatory capital requirement of 4%. Instead, the rights offering will further strengthen Pohjola’s capital base and secure its ability to provide credit in a market where the availability of financing has significantly decreased. And with capital adequacy now an important competitive edge between banks, by increasing its capital base Pohjola should be able to further increase its dominance in Finland.


Mikael Silvennoinen, president and CEO



BNP Paribas

BNP Paribas has profited handsomely from the calamity that crushed Belgium’s Fortis: The bank has become the eurozone’s largest deposit bank—a characteristic of supreme importance in the current market, where capital adequacy is all-important—and added two new domestic markets, Belgium and Luxembourg, to its European footprint. It is highly doubtful whether BNP Paribas would have been able to achieve such an outcome in normal market circumstances. But its ability to act quickly and garner the necessary resources was impressive.


Unsurprisingly, in 2008 the group’s revenues fell 11.8% on the previous year: The resilience of retail and asset management helped to limit the damage, generating returns on pre-tax allocated equity of 25% and 28%, respectively. Moreover, thanks to cost-cutting measures in all business units and a substantial reduction in bonuses, operating expenses fell 1.9% compared to 2007. Nevertheless, the downturn in the economy, in particular in the US, Spain and Ukraine, combined with numerous counterparty defaults in the financial markets, had a huge impact on the bank’s balance sheet. BNP Paribas has pledged to continue its de-risking process while redesigning its product offering to adapt it to customers’ needs. Only time will tell if its actions are enough to offset further weakness in some of its core markets.


Baudouin Prot, CEO





Germany’s banking system is suffering—and that was before the economic disaster in Central and Eastern Europe, where Germany’s banks have expanded aggressively in recent years. The country’s largest bank, Deutsche Bank, posted its first full-year loss in 2008 (of €5.7 billion) in more than 50 years, after a catastrophic three months for its core investment banking business.


Commerzbank, the country’s second-largest bank, has also suffered but appears to have faced up to its problems sooner and acted more rapidly to solve them by taking €18.2 billion from the government in exchange for a 25% stake. In addition, Commerzbank has taken advantage of the crisis to acquire Dresdner Bank, broadening its franchise domestically and gaining access to new deposits.


For the full-year 2008 Commerzbank’s consolidated surplus attributable to its shareholders amounted to €3 million compared to €1.9 billion in 2007. Its operating loss for the year was €378 million, compared to an operating profit of €2.5 billion for the previous year (the operating loss for the fourth quarter was a shocking €822 million). However, excluding one-offs, the operating profit for 2008 remained positive at €2.1 billion. Moreover, Commerzbank’s operating earnings potential remained impressive in its core private- and business-customer franchises as well as in the crucial middle-market-company Mittelstand sector.


Martin Blessing, chairman and CEO



EFG Eurobank


In results released by EFG Eurobank, for the nine months to the end of September 2008, the worst of the financial and economic crisis had yet to be reflected; next year’s awards may tell a different story. Nevertheless, for the period under review, EFG Eurobank delivered healthy growth rates, enhanced its profitability and maintained high capital adequacy and sound liquidity—the result of prudent shareholder capital utilization and effective risk management.


For the first nine months of 2008, group net profit rose by 4.6% to €647 million despite the adverse conditions, while recurring profit grew by 17.9% to €560 million. Crucially, given the increased importance of capital adequacy, customer deposits increased by an impressive 42.5% on the same period a year earlier while capital adequacy was a sound 11%. Despite the strong growth in business, group operating expenses fell by 3.1% quarter-on-quarter. The challenge for EFG Eurobank is to respond to a new market environment. It is giving priority to the efficient utilization of capital, liquidity management and deposit gathering and adopting a more selective, prudent and proactive approach to risk.


Nicholas Nanopoulos, CEO





f09Hungary’s biggest banks—CIB, Erste, OTP, K&H (owned by Belgium’s KBC) and Raiffeisen—endured mixed fortunes in 2008, as the country’s economy slid toward recession. While Erste managed an impressive 30.8% growth in after-tax profits, these awards are not just about profitability but instead also reflect the breadth of a bank’s offering, its track record of innovation and its scale.


On that basis, OTP, by far the country’s largest bank, is a deserving winner, with after-tax profit four times that of Erste and the best cost/income ratio among the major banks (though not the best return on equity). OTP is an undisputed leader in all major segments of banking in Hungary with the exception of corporate lending (which will likely prove a fortuitous position as non-performing loans rise).


Sandor Csanyi, CEO



Intesa Sanpaolo


Italy, already one of the weakest economies in Western Europe, is widely predicted to suffer a 4% fall in GDP in 2009, putting further pressure on its banks. While UniCredit has sought €3 billion from investors, Intesa Sanpaolo has simply canceled its dividend, which it says will give it a core tier-one capital ratio of up to 8%—in line with other European banks that have received state investment. Only time will tell whether Intesa Sanpaolo’s frequent affirmations that it has never considered a capital raising—and will not need to—is hubris.


In the first nine months of 2008, Intesa Sanpaolo delivered a solid operating performance despite the unprecedented market conditions. The bank was able to claim that consolidated net income for the first nine months of 2008 grew 13.9% over the same period of 2007 excluding the non-recurring items, profits on trading (which were €329 million in the first nine months of 2008 compared to €1.13 billion in 2007) and related taxes. The figures reveal an underlying healthy business model. Moreover, Intesa Sanpaolo has finally moved to tackle a perennial disappointment among investors: The project to integrate Intesa and San Paolo, which merged in 2006 but have largely retained their separate cultures, has been accelerated to bring forward synergies and efficiency improvements.


Corrado Passera, managing director and CEO



Aizkraukles Banka


f10The economic boom that followed Latvia’s entry into the EU in 2004 came to an abrupt halt in 2008, with the economy contracting 10.5% in the fourth quarter—the worst performance of any of the 27 countries in the EU. In November 2008 the government was forced to take over one of its largest banks, Parex Banka. Then in February the government was felled by the economic crisis, Latvia’s credit rating was cut to junk by Standard & Poor’s, and the country was forced to turn to the IMF for a $9.6 billion bailout.


A significant beneficiary of the uncertainty created by these traumatic events has been Aizkraukles Banka. At the end of January 2009 Aizkraukles Banka became the largest bank in Latvia in terms of corporate deposits after total deposits at the previous market leader, Parex Banka, fell 43% year-on-year. Deposits at Swedbank, which remains the market leader in terms of individual deposits, fell 10.5% during 2008 while those at SEB fell 9.2%.


Ernest Bernis, chairman and CEO





Lithuania, the largest of the Baltic economies, is likely to suffer less than its neighbors Latvia and Estonia but still expects to see a contraction in GDP of 5.5% this year and 3% in 2010. Swedbank is not one of the largest banks in the country—its market share is 23% for corporate lending and 26% for retail lending—but so far it has fared among the best.


While SEB suffered a fall in net profit in 2008 of almost half compared to 2007 (although 2007 did contain some exceptional items), net consolidated profit generated in Lithuania by Hansabankas, which has now become Swedbank, was just a fraction less than a year earlier. Moreover, at the end of 2008 the capital adequacy ratio of Swedbank was over 12% (compared to the average in Lithuania of 8%). With economic conditions in the Baltics likely to make it tough for banks in 2009, Swedbank’s integration of its operations across the region should start to bring greater efficiencies in terms of product development and delivery and technological infrastructure.


Antanas Danys, head of Swedbank in Lithuania



Banque et Caisse d’Epargne de l’Etat


In a year when so many banks, such as Luxembourg’s Dexia, have had capital injections from their governments—and in the case of Fortis subsequently been dismembered following a rescue—it seems only appropriate that a wholly state-owned bank, Banque et Caisse d’Epargne de l’Etat (BCEE), should be awarded the best bank in Luxembourg. BCEE is deserving of the accolade not just because it has the stability of government backing but because it excels in every aspect of its operations.


As a non-listed entity, BCEE does not report quarterly figures, but its half-yearly figures for 2008 show an increase in profit of 36% before provisions, or a 22.6% increase in net profit. Moreover, the bank appears to have recognized the risks facing the financial system earlier than most. In the same results, it noted that, given its objective of optimizing its risk/return profile, it had adopted a selective policy to interbank loans and the non-renewal of certain positions in its securities portfolio—resulting in a decline in total assets of 9.2%.


Jean-Claude Finck, president and CEO



Komercijalna Banka


While some Western banks have come unstuck in Macedonia, one of the country’s largest banks, Komercijalna Banka, was able to increase gross earnings by 45% in 2008. Komercijalna Banka is recognized as the leading independent, privately owned Macedonian bank and offers a universal—and growing—range of services. Annual revenues from interest on approved loans went up by 25%, and revenues from banking services increased by 1%. Extraordinary revenues made up 8.4% of Komercijalna Banka’s overall revenues and were 18% higher than a year earlier.


Hari Kostov, president and CEO



HSBC Bank Malta


In Malta’s two-horse race for banking supremacy, Bank of Valletta suffered a serious fall in 2008: Its net profit for the financial year ended September 30, 2008, dropped 60% from the previous year. To be sure, HSBC Bank Malta—Valletta’s main rival—was not immune to the problems forced on Malta by the global economic turmoil: Its profit before tax fell 16.2% over the year while profit attributable to shareholders was down 17.3%. But overall it was by far the better performer.


While loans and advances to customers rose a sharp 10.3% compared to a year earlier—at first glance a worrying pace compared to HSBC Bank Malta’s 1% increase in deposits—deposits overall remain well ahead of lending, giving the bank much-needed stability. HSBC Bank Malta’s return on equity may have softened slightly to 22.3% for the year that ended in December 2008 from 27.6% a year earlier, but in these troubled times the bank’s ability to raise its capital adequacy ratio, on a Basel II basis, to 11% compared with 10.3% in 2007 is more significant.


Alan Richards, director and CEO



Moldova Agroindbank


The global economic crisis is being felt in an unusual way in Moldova. The country is one of the five largest recipients of remittances from expatriate workers in the world; they accounted for 38% of GDP in 2008. However, unsurprisingly, these flows are sharply down: The total sent home by Moldovans abroad in January this year was 27% lower than a year earlier. So while GDP grew 7% in 2008, it has been under pressure in 2009.


Moldova Agroindbank is well placed to weather the current storm. For 18 years it has been a leading bank in the country in terms of market share, network (it now has 73 branches) and product and technological innovation. At the end of 2008 the bank held 18.6% of the total assets in the Moldovan banking system, 20.4% of all lending and 19.4% of all deposits. Moreover, Moldova Agroindbank’s net profit in 2008 was 22% higher than a year earlier.


Natalia Vrabie, president





The Netherlands was the epicenter of much of the turmoil in European banking in 2008. The acquisition of ABN AMRO brought ruin and break-up for its own Fortis and near-disaster for the UK’s RBS. Meanwhile, ING sought government support for a €22.7 billion portfolio of loans, received a €10 billion capital injection from the government, reported its first-ever loss-making quarters, took a huge hit on structured products and lost its CEO.


In contrast, Rabobank capitalized on its strong domestic position—60% of its income comes from its home country—and strong core market in the agricultural community. Indeed, the bank is strong enough to have participated in a €1 billion capital injection into Dutch insurer Eureko in February and is also potentially looking for acquisition targets.


And while Rabobank, which is a cooperative and not solely focused on returns, has not ruled out seeking capital from the government, its capital ratios remain strong, with its tier-one ratio above its targeted high level of 12.5%. The bank reported a net profit of €1.3 billion for the first six months of 2009. And it says that its market share in lending to Dutch SMEs has grown to 39% and its mortgage lending market share to 29%, and—most importantly—its market share in the savings market has grown to 42%.


Bert Heemskerk, chairman and CEO





By far the largest bank in Norway, DnB NOR beat analysts’ expectations in the fourth quarter of 2008 when it achieved higher pre-tax operating profits (excluding write-downs) than its previous record quarterly performance. Of course, write-downs are now the most important figures in any bank’s results announcement. But even when these are included, the bank’s 38.5% fall in full-year pretax profits was smaller than expected. Another bright spot is that costs are falling. In the fourth quarter expenses represented 50.2% of income compared to 51.9% a year earlier.


The bank believes its DnB NOR Markets division, which achieved strong profits throughout 2008, should be able to take advantage of future opportunities. Moreover, the bank believes it is currently well capitalized relative to the risk in its loan portfolios and other operations.


Rune Bjerke, CEO



Bank Pekao


Poland’s largest bank, Pekao, which is 59.28% owned by UniCredit, suffered along with the rest of the Polish banking sector in the fourth quarter of 2008, posting an almost 15% fall in fourth-quarter earnings from the previous quarter. Nevertheless, Pekao beat analysts’ expectations—and its peers—and, impressively, recorded a 28% increase in net profit compared to the same period a year earlier. The bank was able to report a healthy full-year consolidated net profit of $928 million.


Pekao sensibly scrapped its dividend in order to increase its capital. At one point the bank was analysts’ top pick among Polish banks because of its dominant market position, low credit risk and strong and stable capital levels.


Jan Krzysztof Bielecki, president and CEO



Banco Espírito Santo


The Portuguese banking system is in surprisingly good health compared with much of the rest of Europe as a result of the fairly conservative approach to risk taken by its banks. Of the five largest banks, Banco Espírito Santo (BES) seems to have fared best in 2008. State-owned Caixa Geral de Depósitos suffered from being used as instrument of policy, not least in having to rescue Banco Português de Negócios following the discovery of a €700 million fraud. Private sector rivals Millennium BCP and Banco BPI look well positioned following rights issues last year, but it should be remembered that their rights issues were not to pre-empt forthcoming losses but to recapitalize their balance sheets following a disastrous and futile takeover and counter-takeover battle.


That leaves Banco Santander Totta and BES, which boosted its own capital through a €1.2 billion rights issue to pre-empt provisioning issues further down the line. BES’s net income fell 33.7% in 2008, but it still achieved a respectable ROE of 9.8% despite the financial crisis. As importantly, the bank is successfully meeting its strategic goals: Its international operations—principally in Brazil, which is so far holding its own despite the global crisis—represented 35.6% of consolidated income compared to 23.3% in 2007. In addition, BES has been generous in making provisions for credit on its balance sheet with a rise from 2.29% to 2.38% of customer loans—one of the highest levels in Iberia.


Ricardo Espírito Santo Salgado, chairman and CEO



BRD-Groupe Société Générale


While a grim outlook was predicted for Romania in 2009—the IMF said the economy would shrink by 4% this year, but government officials have since said it will shrink by twice that—2008 was a stunning year for BRD-Groupe Société Générale. Its operating profit rose 23% from 2007 and, including a handsome profit from selling its stake in the Romanian Asiban insurance company, net profit was 48% higher than in 2007. Net banking income was 27% higher during the year, and BRD opened 124 new branches—a slower pace than in the past to reflect the uncertain outlook. Moreover, despite some important investments, the bank has been able to stabilize costs—and even froze them in the middle of the year—and its return on equity remained an impressive 32.8% in 2008.


Patrick Gelin, chairman and CEO





With the Russian economy in trouble due to depressed commodity prices and a rapid outflow of foreign funds, the government has leaned more heavily than ever on Russia’s leading bank to help run the economy. VTB’s assets have increased accordingly. Unconsolidated figures show that assets rose by 20% at the beginning of February 2009 from the end of 2008. In January 2009 alone the bank grew its corporate loan portfolio by 19% as part of its role in providing support to the strategic industries in the real economy. Total deposits from corporate customers grew 12% over the same period.

More detailed figures for the nine months ended September 30, 2008, show a staggering 10.7% increase in lending from the end of 2007—although this was evenly matched by a 41.7% increase in customer deposits. Encouragingly, despite this huge increase in lending—and it being at the behest of the government—the net interest margin expanded to 4.8% from 4.4% at the end of 2007. Things have started to turn sour, however, as VTB reported a bigger-than-expected net loss of 20.5 billion rubles in the first quarter of this year as the recession continues to take its toll.


Andrei Kostin, chairman and CEO



Raiffeisen Banka

While the Serbian economy is expected to contract by up to 5% this year, exceeding initial IMF estimates, in 2008 GDP grew by 5.4%. Raiffeisen Banka took full advantage of the buoyant economy and achieved a record profit of €77.9 million, which was reinvested in the bank’s capital (as in all previous years). Raiffeisen Banka increased its client base by 65,000 in 2008 and opened 11 new branches, to give it a network of 102.


The Raiffeisen Group kept its position as the biggest creditor of the Serbian economy and grew its corporate credit portfolio by 22% in 2008 (not including cross-border loans, which have yet to become a part of the official statistics for the Serbian banking sector). Cross-border crediting directly from Raiffeisen International has continued to grow strongly.


Oliver Roegl, chairman of the managing board



Tatra Banka


Raiffeisenbank unit Tatra Banka’s operating profit increased by 14% in 2008 as mortgage and corporate financing increased—the loan portfolio grew 24%—backed by increasing client deposits. Tatra Banka remained focused on increasing efficiency and managed to lower the cost/revenue ratio to 54% compared to 56% in 2007. Overall, the bank’s balance sheet grew 26%, and it ended the year with a loan/deposit ratio of 77%.


Crucially, the volume of deposits in Tatra Banka remains significantly higher than that of loans, with a large part of the bank’s deposits consisting of the deposits of large corporate clients. Furthermore, much of the growth in deposits by both retail and corporate customers has come in the form of term deposits, which offer even greater certainty and security for the bank. With non-performing loans falling to 1.4% in 2008, the year was almost perfect for Tatra Banka. However, Slovakia is poised for no growth or even its first contraction since becoming an independent state following the peaceful break-up of Czechoslovakia in 2003, so staying at the top of its game in this tougher environment will be a test of Tatra Banka’s flexibility and ingenuity.


Igor Vida, general manager and CEO



Nova Ljubljanska Banka


f11Choosing a winner between Slovenia’s main banks, number-one Nova Ljubljanska Banka (NLB) and number-two Nova KBM, is tough. On the face of it, NLB looks the worse placed: Its group after-tax profit was a devastating 84.4% lower in 2008 than in 2007 while Nova KBM’s net profit fell a slightly less dramatic 51%.


However, it is important to put 2007’s figures in context. A sizable proportion of NLB’s after-tax profits in 2007 came from loosely defined financial transactions. Furthermore, NLB has a number of achievements of which it can be proud. It completed the merger of three banks in the group in 2008—NLB Banka Domzale, NLB Banka Zasavje and NLB Koroska Banka—heralding greater operational efficiency and hopefully generating cost savings in the future. Moreover, net interest and non-interest income was 12.7% higher than in 2007. The bank’s total assets rose a modest 4% over 2007, but loans to the non-banking sector were 8.9% higher. Most importantly, NLB remains in a strong position, with a capital adequacy ratio of 11.8% at the end of 2008.


Drasko Veselinovic, CEO





Of the three banks that bought ABN AMRO in 2007—Fortis, RBS and Santander—only one has emerged with any credibility; indeed, only one has survived without being rescued by its government and then broken up. The Spanish bank appears to have selected the assets it wanted in ABN AMRO carefully and resisted the temptation to keep anything outside its core markets—for instance, by immediately selling Antonveneta in Italy to Monte dei Paschi di Siena—rather than empire building. Indeed, Santander’s solid credibility proved an important asset in persuading doubters when it surprised the market with a €7.2 billion rights issue in November 2008.


To be sure, Santander is exposed to the two Western European economies facing the toughest economic outlook, Spain and the UK. In the first half of this year, Santander made a net attributable profit of €4.52 billion, a decline of only 4%. Its non-performing-loan ratio stood at 2.82%. In Latin America attributable profit stood at $2.4 billion, a slight decline of 4%, with growth of 7% in loans and deposits.


The bank’s 2008 results were strong, considering the difficult markets: Net profit was €8.88 billion—only 2% down on the year before despite a €350 million charge related to the Madoff fraud and other charges related to stakes in Fortis, RBS and Lehman Brothers. A 22% growth in net interest income (which is 60% of revenues), stable fee income (27% of revenues) and a cost/income ratio of 42% (down from 44% in 2007) more than offset sharply higher loan loss provisions (up 72%).


Alfredo Sáenz Abad, second vice chairman and CEO





Sweden’s banks are seen as relatively well positioned to survive the global slowdown given their experience from the country’s bank crisis in the 1990s. However, it seems that some banks are better positioned than others. Sweden’s largest bank, Nordea, reported a disappointing fall in fourth-quarter 2008 net profit of 25.2% and launched a €2.5 billion rights issue in February 2009, a week after SEB had also reported disappointing figures and announced a rights issue.


Nordea and SEB’s smaller rival, Handelsbanken, beat analysts’ expectations for fourth-quarter profits, despite also suffering increasing loan losses. The bank reported a 23% rise in fourth-quarter profits, largely due to the inclusion of a Norwegian branch of subsidiary Stadshypotek, which added significantly to operating profits. For the full-year 2008, earnings per share for continuing operations rose by 10% while operating profits went up by 4%. The improvement in profits was chiefly attributable to higher deposit and loan volumes combined with a favorable funding situation. Meanwhile, as other banks were fretting about capital adequacy, during the fourth quarter Handelsbanken’s tier-one capital ratio increased to 10.5%.


Pär Boman, group chairman and CEO



Credit Suisse


The once impregnable bastions of Swiss banking, Credit Suisse and UBS, have been exposed as being as fragile as other international banks. Both have suffered substantially in terms of lost profits, write-downs and reputation. However, UBS has undoubtedly been damaged more than Credit Suisse. In October 2008, as the global banking crisis reached a peak, UBS was forced to turn to the Swiss National Bank for help. It transferred $60 billion—subsequently reduced to $39.1 billion—of toxic assets to a new entity in order to cleanse its balance sheet. During the same week, Credit Suisse demonstrated its relative strength by reinforcing its capital base by Sfr10 billion ($8.54 billion) without turning to the government or needing to move toxic assets into a separate entity.


Similarly, the banks’ fourth-quarter 2008 results revealed the extent to which UBS was underperforming Credit Suisse: While both sets of figures made horrible reading, UBS’s net loss of Sfr8.1 billion ($6.92 billion) was considerably larger than Credit Suisse’s Sfr6 billion loss. Moreover, while Credit Suisse, like all investment banks, has suffered during 2009, its high-quality wealth management, private banking, domestic retail and corporate banking operations have stood it in good stead.


Brady Dougan, CEO





f12As Fitch Ratings noted at the beginning of March 2009, the Turkish banking sector is in a significantly better position to handle the fallout from the global economic crisis than it would have been even a few years ago. Its systemic resilience has improved significantly, supported by an enhanced regulatory environment, and it now compares more favorably internationally than at the beginning of the decade. Nevertheless, the operating environment is expected to deteriorate due to the weakening economic outlook for Turkey and the world.


The bank best able to deal with that challenge is Akbank. While net profit fell 11% from 2007, the bank still generated $1.1 billion—a not unimpressive figure given the pressure on the Turkish economy. Akbank’s support for the Turkish economy saw a 23% increase in cash loans, and overall the bank’s consolidated assets grew by 29%. Despite the worsening economic outlook, non-performing loans (NPLs) remained considerably below the industry average at 2.3%—and despite this low ratio Akbank has continued to make 100% NPL provisions. With a robust capital adequacy ratio of 17%, Akbank is one of the best-placed banks not only in Turkey but in all markets, a fact reflected by the bank’s position as being among the 20 most valuable European banks, in terms of market capitalization, by the end of January 2009.


Ziya Akkurt, CEO





Ukraine is in clear trouble. Its economy was already vulnerable long before the global economic crisis took hold, and it was one of the first countries to turn to the IMF for a bailout. The collapse in global demand for commodities has since hammered Ukraine’s main industry, steel, although it received a fillip in January and February this year following a sharp devaluation.


The country’s third-largest bank, UkrSibbank, which is 51% owned by BNP Paribas, has not been immune to these problems. However, although the second half of 2008 turned out to be extremely difficult, the bank was able to increase profits by 2.2 times while its total assets increased by 47.9%. While producing impressive financial figures, UkrSibbank has not neglected the details of retail banking: In 2008 it abolished fees for ATM and cash desk withdrawals.


Sergiy Naumov, chairman


United Kingdom



No global bank has handled the crisis better than HSBC to date. While most US giants first sought capital injections from sovereign wealth funds, then from their own investors and finally from governments, HSBC managed to avoid a capital raising until March this year. Most importantly, HSBC has been able to come to market on its own terms—its £12.5 billion rights issue was not an emergency recapitalization but an opportunity to bolster existing high levels of capital so that the bank might be better positioned as the global economy recovers. Nevertheless, news of the rights issue sent the banking giant’s shares on a roller coaster ride, illustrating the fragility of investor confidence in banks across the board.


In the UK market, HSBC is the king of a radically changed environment. RBS and Lloyds Banking Group stumbled painfully in the subprime debacle, while others such as HBOS were swallowed up in the aftermath of the crisis. Finally, Barclays—though still in one piece—has been bruised by repeatedly turning to sovereign wealth funds for money and ignoring its existing investors. Moreover, there are serious doubts over its strategy. In short, HSBC is the only credible bank left standing.


Michael Geoghegan, CEO


World’s Best Banks Asia



HSBC Armenia


In January 2009 HSBC Armenia became a member of Nasdaq OMX, which will provide it with access to a wide range of securities markets. HSBC Group has a 70% stake in the bank and provides financial back-up. The remaining shares in the bank are owned by Armenian businesses, giving it a strong local connection. From January to December 2008 the bank made a net profit of 3.9 billion drams ($10.5 million). HSBC Armenia has nine branches in Yerevan, and its presence dates back to 1996. As of the end of 2008, HSBC Bank Armenia boasted assets in excess of $329 million. The bank is also spearheading the development of new banking channels including telephone and Internet banking.


Timothy Slater, CEO



Commonwealth Bank of Australia


Australia’s banks so far have fared reasonably well in the global banking crisis, largely due to a strict regulatory regime that prevented substantial subprime exposure and a domestic economy that is only now facing a significant downturn. Among the leading banks, Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA) and Westpac are generally seen as more risk averse—and therefore were looked at as much more attractive going into a recession—than National Australia Bank and ANZ. In its half-year figures to December 31, CBA reported net income 9% higher than the previous year, although this included a non-cash gain on the acquisition of Bankwest (itself a sign of continuing strength). Excluding this, net profit after-tax decreased 16% on the prior comparative period. Nevertheless, CBA has so far managed to maintain its dividend, while rival ANZ cut its by 25%.


Ralph Norris, CEO



International Bank of Azerbaijan


f13As a national development bank, International Bank of Azerbaijan (IBA) plays a strategic role in the local economy and receives support from the government. It has more than 30 domestic branches as well as a presence in Moscow, Tbilisi, Frankfurt and London. As of the end of December 2008, IBA boasted a healthy return on equity of 29.36%, and its cost-to-income ratio was a manageable 49%. At the end of 2008 the bank’s customer base stood at more than 665,000, with a 40.8% share of total customer accounts. The bank has a more than 42% share of domestic loans and national banking assets. In early 2009 the bank rolled out various payment initiatives, such as expanding its credit and debit card coverage, bill payment outlets and a money transfer service between Russia and Azerbaijan. It is also the first bank in the country to implement Internet and mobile banking.



Jahangir Hajiyev, chairman



Janata Bank


Bangladesh’s second-largest commercial bank, Janata Bank boasts an impressive domestic network of more than 800 branches and a strong focus on servicing domestic SMEs, particularly in the industrial and agricultural sectors. Government ownership means it is likely to receive state support if needed. Local ratings agencies say the bank’s asset quality has improved in recent years, with declines in its non-performing loan (NPL) ratio. The bank is hoping to launch an IPO soon in order to increase its capital base. Profits in 2008 reached 3.19 billion taka ($46 million).


S.M. Aminur Rahman, CEO and managing director





f14China’s biggest lender boasted total assets in excess of 9.7 trillion renminbi ($1.4 trillion) at the end of 2008, constituting an increase of 12%. Total loans and advances to customers reached RMB4.6 trillion at the end of 2008. The bank has a more than 80% share of customer deposits and loans. ICBC has made significant inroads in expanding its geographical footprint, with stakes in banks in South Africa, Indonesia and Macau. The bank has also improved its asset quality, with an NPL ratio of 2.37% as of September 30, 2008. Its cost-to-income ratio has also declined markedly from just over 35% in 2007 to 28% in 2008. Profit after tax for 2008 increased by 36% on 2007 levels to RMB111 billion.


Yang Kaisheng, president




Bank of Georgia


f15Georgian banks suffered in 2008, with the Russian military conflict wreaking havoc on the local economy and on the earnings of domestic banks. Ratings agencies placed a negative outlook on Bank of Georgia in response to increasing pressures on the bank’s asset quality. Bank of Georgia was one of the first banks in the country to implement anti-money-laundering software and leads the way in terms of product innovations such as wireless payments. It is the largest retail bank, with a 33% market share in terms of total assets and more than 900,000 customers serviced by 140 branches. Net income for the first nine months of 2008 reached 1.3 million lari ($776,000).



Irakli Gilauri, CEO


Hong Kong



HSBC has always outclassed—not just outsized—its Hong Kong competitors, and 2008 was no exception. There is every indication that while the spring might have gone out of equity markets in Hong Kong—a market that previously produced high brokerage returns for HSBC—bad debts have not increased substantially, and HSBC’s core business will remain profitable for the full year 2009. Moreover, HSBC’s reputation has made it a major recipient of deposit inflows as participants in financial markets have sought to reduce the risks associated with their investment portfolios and retail customers have moved to larger and stronger institutions.


Michael Geoghegan, CEO





With a lower NPL ratio than some of its rivals and a higher return on average equity of 17% in 2008, HDFC boasts impressive indicators. The bank is also reportedly expanding its already extensive domestic branch and ATM network comprising 1,412 branches and more than 3,000 ATMs across more than 500 cities. Net profit for the nine months to December 31, 2008, was 16 billion rupees ($322 million), an increase of 44.2% on the previous year.


Aditya Puri, managing director



PT Bank Central Asia


Indonesia’s second-largest lender, PT Bank Central Asia (BCA), saw its 2008 net profit increase by more than 28% to 5.8 trillion rupiah ($510.9 million). The bank attributed the increase in profit to growth in fee-based and net interest income. Return on equity for the bank at the end of 2008 was a substantial 30%. The bank also grew its loan portfolio, with some of the biggest increases in corporate lending (74.9% increase year-on-year) and consumer lending (55.2% year-on-year). The bank’s asset quality is strong, with an NPL ratio of 0.6%. As of September 30, 2008, BCA boasted more than 8 million customer accounts serviced by 816 branches nationwide, more than 5,000 ATMs and more than 53,000 electronic data capture terminals. The bank is investing in a wider range of customer channels, including mobile and Internet banking.


Djohan Emir Setijoso, president, director



Resona Holdings


Resona, Japan’s fourth-largest bank, has not been immune to the problems wracking the country’s financial industry. In 2008 it suffered a significant slump in profits—of 41.5%—and said that full-year profits would be 47% lower. But those declines must be seen in the context of an aggregate decline in net profit for Japan’s six largest banks of 90% for the first nine months of 2008. Either through luck or design, Resona has substantially reduced its equity holdings in recent years, limiting the damage from Japan’s plunging markets. Having been nationalized in 2003—it still owes the state ¥2.3 trillion ($23 billion) following its most recent repayment in February—the risk-averse character of Resona appears to have positioned it well for what looks set to be one of the toughest periods in Japan’s history. Following a horrific 12.7% annualized fall in GDP in the fourth quarter of 2008 and a 45.7% fall in Japanese exports in January year-on-year, the current recession looks set to be the deepest since modern Japan was founded after the Second World War.


Eiji Hosoya, chairman and representative executive officer





In January of this year Kazkommertsbank received 120 billion tenge ($794.5 million) from the government-owned SamrukKazyna National Welfare Fund, some of which will be used by SamrukKazyna to acquire a 25% stake in the bank. The remainder will be used to finance the bank’s corporate customers in the manufacturing, agriculture, infrastructure, oil and gas, and transport sectors. The bank is playing a key support role in the government’s stabilization program. With assets totaling KZT27 billion as of September 30, 2008, Kazkommertsbank is one of central Asia’s largest banks. It has a more than 20% market share of banking assets and a 23.8% share of total loan portfolios.


Nurzhan Subkhanberdin, chairman


Kyrgyz Republic

AsiaUniversalBank (AUB)


f16AUB is the country’s largest bank in terms of assets, deposit base and total capital. In 2008 the bank’s total assets increased by 41% to 12.4 billion som ($302 million). Its liabilities also increased by 35%. The bank is in the process of setting up an office in China and has representative offices in Almaty, Kazakhstan, in Kiev, Ukraine, and in Riga, Latvia. It also launched a share issue to help raise the bank’s authorized capital to KGS1.4 billion. On the back of increases in fee-based and non-interest income, the bank posted a net profit of KGS367.9 million in 2008.


Mikhail Nadel, chairman





ICBC Macau

f17ICBC Macau—formerly Seng Heng Bank—has a 10% share of total loan volume, and its loan quality is high, with an NPL ratio of 0.28%. Net profit declined from $41 million in 2007 to $28 million in 2008 on the back of a significant impairment allowance/disposal loss on bonds, which offset any increases in net income. The bank has benefited from ICBC’s acquisition of an 80% stake. ICBC Macau is adopting ICBC’s risk management system to strengthen its existing risk controls. With strong ties to Portugal, the bank is well placed to capitalize on increased levels of business and trade between China and Portuguese-speaking countries such as Brazil.



Yu Hong, CEO and executive director



Public Bank Berhad




With a 30.4% net return on equity in 2008 and a relatively low cost-to-income ratio of 31%, Public Bank Berhad runs a tight ship. Despite strong loan growth, particularly in the retail market segment, it managed to preserve loan quality, with a low gross NPL ratio of 1%. Last year again saw record profits for the bank, with pre-tax profits increasing by 12.5% to 3.38 billion ringgit ($930 million). Net interest income and Islamic financing income increased by 15.2% to RM4.29 billion.


Teh Hong Piow, chairman







Khan Bank




Last year, Khan Bank posted the highest industry averages for return on equity (34%) and return on assets (3.2%). Its deposit base increased by 37% to $581 million. It has also made a significant dent in its NPL ratio, which stands at 2.86% despite increased lending activity in 2008. Total profits for the bank in 2008 were $19 million. Khan Bank has also used its extensive network to spearhead a number of key banking innovations in Mongolia, including the introduction of ATM transfers and Internet and mobile banking.


J. Peter Morrow, CEO






Habib Bank


Fitch analysts note that Pakistan’s banks face significant challenges in terms of an uncertain and deteriorating domestic and political climate. While funding sources may be constrained, Habib Bank has a strong deposit base and remittances business. It has a more than 50% share of the inward remittances business and an extensive network comprising more than 1,400 branches, as well as 55 branches worldwide. Net profit for the Habib Group in 2008 was 15.6 billion rupees ($194 million). Interest and non-interest income grew by 26% and 60%, respectively. Habib Bank recently received permission to conduct trade/remittance settlements between China and Pakistan.


R. Zakir Mahmood, president and CEO



Bank of the Philippine Islands


f20BPI has enjoyed considerable success with its consumer Internet banking platform, BPI Express Online. Transaction volume and number of customers using the platform increased by more than 40%, and its mobile banking platform also saw significant uptake in 2008. BPI remains the largest remittance bank in the country, with volumes growing by 35%, more than double the industry rate of growth. BPI boasts a 26% share of the remittance market, and building on that success it will conduct cross-border business in 12 eurozone countries where Filipino workers reside. Net income in 2008 was 6.4 billion pesos ($133 million). The bank believes its well-diversified loan portfolio is key to its success, and its asset quality is relatively stable, with an NPL ratio of 3% compared to the industry average of 3.78%.


Aurelio Montinola III, president and CEO



United Overseas Bank


Singapore’s banks have suffered as slowing loan growth, mounting losses from bad debts and falling fee income from plummeting stock markets have eaten into their earnings. Singapore’s largest bank, DBS Group, reported a 40% drop in quarterly profit in the fourth quarter of 2008, and its second-largest bank, United Overseas Bank (UOB), also disappointed with a 34.4% fall in net profit as a result of write-downs. Net profit for the full year fell 8.2%. The outlook for UOB is tough given its dominance of the small and medium-size company sector, which is likely to be hardest hit by the downturn. However, the bank’s tier-one and total capital ratios of 10.9% and 15.3% at the end of December 2008 were well above the minimum 6% and 10% required by the Monetary Authority of Singapore and high by international standards.


Wee Ee Cheong, deputy chairman and CEO


South Korea

Shinhan Bank


Korea has been hard hit by the global credit crisis, with domestic liquidity for South Korean banks tightening. Despite this, Shinhan Financial Group’s fourth-quarter 2008 revenues of $16.8 billion beat analysts’ expectations, and in 2009 the bank expected to remain profitable despite falling interest margins and industry-wide increases in loan delinquencies. Shinhan Bank is one of the few South Korean banks that in recent years has expanded outside its home market, with a “localized” strategy in markets such as China, Vietnam and India.


Lee Baek Soon, president and CEO


Sri Lanka

Commercial Bank of Ceylon

f21Commercial Bank of Ceylon maintained its leading position in 2008 in terms of assets and profits. At the end of December 2008 group net profits were 4.3 billion rupees ($37 million), an increase of almost 4% on 2007 levels. The bank also claims that at 50.46% its cost-to-income ratio is the lowest among local commercial banks. The bank’s non-performing loan ratio increased from 3.01% in 2007 to 5.14%. The bank has an extensive footprint, with 170 branches and more than 330 ATMs in Sri Lanka. It also has a presence in Bangladesh.


A. L. Gooneratne, CEO and managing director




Chinatrust Commercial Bank


Chinatrust has the largest loan and deposit base in Taiwan, according to Financial Supervisory Commission data, and its strength across a wide range of business lines including cash management, trade finance, capital markets, credit cards and wealth management saw its fee-income ratio climb to 35.24% in 2008. Its market share of card sales volume reached 19.5%. The bank has an extensive on-the-ground presence, with 145 domestic branches and more than 4,000 ATMs as well as 74 overseas outlets. It has a relatively high asset quality, with an NPL ratio of 1.06% as of December 2008.


Charles L.F. Lo, chairman



Siam Commercial Bank (SCB)

f22SCB boasts an extensive network with more than 900 branches and more than 6,000 ATMs. In recent years it has also significantly improved its asset quality, with its NPL ratio as a percentage of total loans declining from 7.9% in 2006 to 5.1% in 2008. Net profit increased by a record-breaking 23% in 2008 to 21.4 billion baht ($603.7 million), the highest among its closest peers. The bank’s bottom line benefited from growth across net interest and non-interest income (up 12.4% year-on-year) driven by increases in income from cards, mutual funds, bancassurance and foreign exchange. The bank is a leading market provider in the areas of asset management, credit cards, bancassurance and mortgage lending.



Kannikar Chalitaporn, president and director



Credit-Standard Bank


Credit-Standard Bank has achieved a number of firsts in the market in terms of introducing mortgage lending, consumer credit and now Internet and SMS banking. The bank continues to expand its range of services and is looking to grow its correspondent banking network in Europe and Asia. In the first half of 2008 the bank’s credit portfolio expanded as the bank continued to attract new customers. In October 2008 Moody’s assigned the bank an E+ financial strength rating on the back of sound financial fundamentals and strong corporate governance. However, more work needs to be done in terms of expanding the bank’s retail and corporate franchise, the ratings agency says. Nevertheless, the bank has come a long way in just six years of operations.


Mukhamedjanov Kamoliddin Anvarovich, chairman



Asia Commercial Bank

Asia Commercial Bank, which is 15% owned by Standard Chartered, stands out in the Vietnamese market for its above-average profitability and low loan levels. Revenue earned from bonds and currencies saw ACB’s pre-tax profit increase by 20% to 2.52 trillion dong ($146.5 million) in 2008. Net profit increased by 28% to VND2.25 trillion. The bank achieved strong growth in loans and deposits, and assets grew to over VND115 trillion last year. The bank boasts 188 branches and sub-branches across Vietnam.


Ly Xuan Hai, president


World’s Best Banks Latin America



Banco Macro


f_la_01Banco Macro adopted a strategy that appears counter-intuitive in a country where nearly 50% of the population lives in the Buenos Aires metropolitan area. The bank instead focused on dominating key markets in the under-banked provinces, where 90% of its customers are located. Of its 423 branches, 82% are located in the country’s interior, giving it the strongest presence of any bank outside Buenos Aires. Macro is the exclusive financial agent for four Argentine provinces, acting as their official bank and handling their payroll accounts. By focusing on low- and middle-income clients, it has managed to gain a portfolio of 2.28 million customers. The strategy has paid off nicely, as Macro is the only bank in the country to post 28 consecutive profitable quarters.


Jorge Brito, president




FirstCaribbean International


FirstCaribbean International is one of the Caribbean’s strongest financial institutions, bringing banking services to customers in 17 different markets. With 2008 assets of more than $10.9 billion (which fell from $11.8 billion in 2007) and market capitalization of $2.5 billion, it remains the largest regionally listed bank in the English-speaking Caribbean. As a full-service bank, Barbados-based FirstCaribbean International offers corporate and retail banking, wealth management, credit cards, treasury and capital markets services. The bank partnered with the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) in 2008 to create a $200 million Risk Sharing Guaranteed Facility to fund tourism investment and development projects by Caribbean companies. The bank, 91.4%-owned by Canada’s CIBC, dedicates 1% of pre-tax profits to funding community projects each year through its FirstCaribbean International Comtrust Foundation. The bank invested more than $1.9 million in community projects in 2008.


John Orr, CEO



Belize Bank


f_la_02Belize Bank, the Central American nation’s largest full-service commercial bank, holds a nearly 50% share of a market dominated by just five financial institutions and with a total population of just over 300,000. Founded in 1902, it is also Belize’s oldest bank and the only one with a nationwide branch network. The bank is favored by foreign companies as it offers certificates of deposit and checking accounts in US dollars, Canadian dollars, British pounds, euros and other currencies. To minimize its exposure to any particular sector, the bank has diversified its loan portfolio to include loans to the agricultural and tourism sectors, among others. Commercial loans account for 50% of Belize Bank’s loan portfolio. BB Holdings, Belize Bank’s holding company, reported net income of $52.3 million in 2008, up from $43.6 million in 2007.



Philip Johnson, chairman



Banco de Crédito de Bolivia


f_la_03Banco de Crédito de Bolivia (BCB) has taken a cautious approach to credit risk, resulting in a 1.96% non-performing loan ratio that has been the sector’s lowest for the past four years. The Bolivian banking system’s average NPL ratio was a hefty 4.28% in 2008. The bank, which has a portfolio coverage ratio of 230.6%, still managed to maintain a 13.3% market share of deposits and 13.4% share of performing loans. Its asset allocation strategy is now firmly focused on maintaining the liquidity and quality of its assets portfolio, with asset growth concentrated in high-quality short-term investments. Total assets grew 14.7% year-on-year in 2008, when its gross margin grew 60%. In 2008 it issued its first corporate social responsibility report.




Diego Cavero Belaunde, CEO





The 2008 merger of Banco Itaú, Brazil’s third-largest bank at the time, and Unibanco, the country’s fourth-largest bank, created a financial sector giant to be reckoned with. The combined bank, Itaú-Unibanco, is now Latin America’s largest financial group, with more than 14.5 million clients. Itaú-Unibanco kicked-off its operations with 4,905 branches, representing an estimated 18% of Brazil’s total branch network, and more than 30,909 ATMs nationwide. The merger positions the combined institution to better compete on the home front with other local banking giants but also gives it the heft to seriously explore potential expansion abroad. Itaú-Unibanco already operates in several markets outside Brazil, including Argentina, Chile and Uruguay. Its loan portfolio grew 34% year-on-year to $113.2 billion. Return on equity (ROE) was 22.1%, and return on assets (ROA) was 1.9%. Itaú-Unibanco has total assets of $263.6 billion.


Roberto Setubal, CEO



Banco Santander Chile


f_la_04While the Chilean banking sector posted a modest 1.7% increase in profits in 2008, Banco Santander Chile saw profits rise by 6.3%. Net income was $512 million in 2008. To respond to a challenging economic environment, Santander Chile took a more conservative approach to credit risk, though total loans grew by 19.1% year-on-year in 2008. With the bank also shifting its focus from retail to corporate loans, corporate lending rose 26% year-on-year. As the global economic crisis deepened in fourth-quarter 2008, customer loyalty saw Santander Chile’s deposits grow by an annualized 40% without increasing deposit costs. With only 6% of its funding coming from foreign sources, the bank avoided the brunt of the global liquidity freeze. Rated A+ by Standard & Poor’s and A1 by Moody’s, it reported total assets of $33 billion at end-2008. Among the newest members of its board of directors is former Chilean central bank president Vittorio Corbo.


Mauricio Larrain, chairman





f_la_05Colombia’s largest bank, Bancolombia, also has the country’s most extensive distribution network, with 717 branches and 2,355 ATMs in more than 602 Colombian communities. As the first and only Colombian bank listed on the NYSE, Bancolombia has always had both a domestic and a global vision. It acquired El Salvador’s Banco Agrícola in 2007, giving it instant access to Central American markets and adding geographic diversity to its balance sheet. Bancolombia also has offshore banking operations in Panama, Puerto Rico, the Cayman Islands and Miami. It is focused on ongoing technology improvements, as transactions completed through electronic distribution channels accounted for more than 86.3% of total transactions in 2008. Bancolombia has introduced Facturanet as Colombia’s first electronic bill payment system.


Jorge Londoño, president and CEO

Costa Rica

Scotiabank Costa Rica


As its rivals virtually halted their lending programs amid the country’s liquidity crunch and currency volatility, Scotiabank Costa Rica’s loan portfolio grew by 18% in 2008 to $1.5 billion. That was a full eight points higher than the average peer growth. Its leasing division posted 28% year-on-year growth in 2008, retaining its ranking as the largest leasing company in Central America, with operations in four markets. Following its 2007 merger with Interfin, the country’s largest private bank, Scotiabank Costa Rica focused its 2008 strategy on consolidating its branch network. The Interfin merger boosted Scotiabank Costa Rica’s branch network by 50%. The bank now operates 150 service points, including 42 full-service branches, in all seven Costa Rican provinces.


Luis Liberman, general manager


Dominican Republic

Banco Popular Dominicano


While some of its local rivals were grappling for survival, Banco Popular Dominicano (BPD) saw its solvency classification and fixed-term deposits rating from ratings agency Feller Rate rise in 2008 to A+ from A. The Dominican Republic’s largest private bank, founded in 1963 to support small industries and the agricultural sector, BPD posted a 10.5% year-on-year rise in its net loan portfolio, to $2.3 billion, in 2008. The rise was driven by increased business loans to productive sector companies and SMEs. To boost its corporate banking business, the bank launched exclusive service centers for corporate clients. Its 1.6 million customers are serviced through 183 branches and 620 ATMs nationwide. This represents the country’s largest branch network. In 2008 net profits were $31.1 million, and total assets were $4.2 billion, a 12% increase over 2007 assets.


Manuel Grullon, CEO



Banco Pichincha


Founded in 1906 with a commitment to support Ecuador’s economic development, Banco Pichincha has remained true to its core values. It enjoys an AA+ rating from BankWatch Ratings and Pacific Credit Rating, the highest for any Ecuadorian bank. Banco Pichincha has Ecuador’s largest branch network, with 279 branches and 657 ATMs. It also has banking subsidiaries in Peru and Panama and maintains representative offices in Madrid and Miami. Banco Pichincha’s corporate social responsibility programs are focused on projects involved with health, education and expanding access to technology. These activities are coordinated through the bank’s Fundación Crisfe, a non-profit foundation. Banco Pichincha reported total assets of $3.9 billion in first-half 2008, with ROE of 20.6% and ROA of 2.1%.


Aurelio Fernando Pozo, general manager


El Salvador

Banco Agrícola


Founded in 1955 as the first bank to offer personal loans in El Salvador, Banco Agrícola has been owned by Bancolombia, Colombia’s largest bank, since 2007. The bank has developed a loyal customer base that gives it a 30% market share of both loans and deposits. Already a leader in the corporate business segment, Banco Agrícola is working to take a leadership position in the SME segment as well. The bank introduced new services in 2008 to provide salary advances and a new revolving loan that allows customers to use checks to tap their credit lines. Electronic channels account for 75% of the bank’s total transactions. With more than 700 service points, Banco Agrícola has the largest distribution network in El Salvador. It also operates three branches in the US and a representative office in Guatemala. Its total assets rose from $3.6 billion in 2007 to $3.8 billion in 2008.


José Orellana Milla, executive president



Banco Agromercantil

Founded in 2000 as the result of a merger between Banco del Agro and Banco Agrícola Mercantil, Banco Agromercantil has worked consistently to retain its leadership role in the Guatemalan banking sector. In 2008 the bank introduced mobile phone banking and launched new insurance products in order to maintain its competitive edge. To further increase its market presence, Banco Agromercantil also grew its branch network from 194 in 2007 to 237 in 2008, making it the private bank with the largest nationwide branch network in Guatemala. It also operates 1,069 ATMs throughout the country. Servicing the needs of many Guatemalan residents abroad, the bank registered a 5.4% year-on-year increase in remittances handled in 2008. Total assets rose 2.37% year-on-year in 2008, though total shareholders’ equity fell by an annualized 1.7% during the period. ROE was 21.1%, and ROA was 1.49% in 2008.


José Luis Valdés, president



Banco Atlántida

Banco Atlántida remains a very strong player in a somewhat weak banking environment. Fitch Ratings assigned the bank a first-time rating of A+ in 2008, recognizing its solid financial standing despite the country’s economic slowdown. The ratings agency had already assigned Seguros Atlántida, the bank’s insurance affiliate and one of Honduras’s most profitable insurers, an AA- rating. Banco Atlántida’s low fees and minimum deposit requirements remain a winning formula for continuing to increase its customer base year after year. It is the only bank in Honduras with a truly nationwide presence, operating more than 270 points of sale, including branches and ATMs. Beyond its role as the country’s leading commercial bank, it has also had a major historical impact on the nation’s economy. Founded in 1913, Banco Atlántida introduced Honduras’s first local currency notes in 1932, nearly two decades before the central bank took over the business of issuing money.


Guillermo Bueso, executive president



Scotiabank Jamaica


As a subsidiary of the Bank of Nova Scotia, Scotiabank Jamaica enjoys the financial strength of the Canadian bank’s established brand name, global network and 177 years of premier banking experience. Scotiabank is one of the oldest foreign banking franchises operating in Jamaica, entering the market in 1889. Today, the bank offers retail and commercial banking services through a network of 35 branches, three sub-branches and 180 ATMs distributed throughout Jamaica. It also operates one of the country’s most modern electronic banking systems, having invested strongly in technology upgrades. Wholly owned subsidiaries offer clients insurance products, mortgages and specialized investment services. Scotiabank Jamaica has even become an important lender to the Jamaican government. Scotiabank Jamaica reported a hefty 26.4% year-on-year increase in net profits in 2008.


Bruce Bowen, CEO





Though Citi’s financial difficulties have dimmed its luster, its Mexican subsidiary remains one of its few shining jewels. By strengthening its balance sheet and boosting reserves by some $3 billion, Banamex increased its operating margin by 24% year-on-year in 2008. The Mexican banking giant’s reserves are now more than twice its level of non-performing loans. At some $14 billion, Banamex’s equity is more than 20% of assets. For the past three years the bank has reinvested 100% of profits. Despite a more cautious tack, Banamex grew its branch network by 20%, to 1,930 branches, in 2008. It also increased its performing loans to SMEs twofold and grew its client base by 1.8 million to nearly 18 million clients. In 2008 it created a fund to grant loans to social organizations in rural areas. Its corporate social responsibility efforts aim to promote Mexican culture, alleviate poverty and protect the environment.


Manuel Medina-Mora, CEO



Banco General


f_la_06While Panama has experienced a major real estate boom in recent years, attracting local and foreign buyers of new high-end condominiums and villas, Banco General has maintained its position as the leading mortgage lender to the country’s low- and middle-income borrowers. In 2008 the Inter-American Development Bank provided the bank with a $50 million long-term loan to support its mortgage-lending program, particularly to low-income homebuyers. It also received a $160 million syndicated loan, arranged by UniCredit and BNP Paribas, to help diversify its financing sources. Banco General has a 21% market share of the Panamanian total loan market and posted a 58.9% jump in 2008 net income. During the first three quarters of 2008, the bank boosted its reserves to more than $1 billion, for a reserve-to-asset ratio of 13.21%, up from 12.53% in 2007. Net profit rose from $115.6 million in 2007 to $183.7 million in 2008.


Raúl Alemán Zubieta, CEO




Interbanco operates in all market segments but continues to have a strong focus on trade finance and consumer banking—both of which are key components in kick-starting the country’s economy. In 2008 it became the first bank in Paraguay to join the International Finance Corporation’s (IFC) Global Trade Finance Program and was chosen by the Inter-American Development Bank to close its first-ever structured and corporate finance transactions in the South American nation. Interbanco is the country’s largest private bank by assets and maintains a network of 22 branches. Total assets and total deposits grew 28% and 21% year-on-year, respectively, in 2008. Established in 1978, Interbanco is regarded as a banking sector pioneer, having introduced Internet and phone banking to Paraguay. It remains the country’s sole issuer of American Express cards. Interbanco’s corporate social responsibility initiatives focus on reducing the country’s digital divide and supporting healthcare, cultural and environmental programs.


Claudio Yamaguti, president



BBVA Banco Continental

f_la_07BBVA Banco Continental, a subsidiary of Spain’s BBVA, is one of only two Peruvian banks with a coveted investment-grade rating. The bank has investment-grade ratings from both Standard & Poor’s and Fitch Ratings, in recognition of its financial strength and strong banking franchise. While its deposits grew by 22.7% in 2008, its non-performing loans ratio was 1.9% versus a 2.17% average for the Peruvian banking system as a whole. BBVA Banco Continental’s 32.4% efficiency ratio was the best in the sector. It has an ROE of 36.21% and ROA of 2.51%. Net profit rose 22.1% year-on-year in 2008, to $241 million. The bank opened 20 new branches in 2008, bringing the nationwide total to 218, and has a network of more than 1,000 ATMs. In 2008 BBVA Banco Continental launched its debut issue of $250 million DPR (diversified payment rights) notes as part of the bank’s new DPR securitization program.


Eduardo Torres-Llosa, general manager


Puerto Rico

Banco Santander Puerto Rico


With Puerto Rico’s economy struggling through its third year of economic recession, accompanied by high inflation and job losses, banks on the island have had to introduce strategies just to remain above water. Santander BanCorp, the holding company for Banco Santander Puerto Rico, implemented a series of measures to maintain profitability, including boosting its focus on cross-selling opportunities for organic growth and on cutting operating expenses. Net interest margin (tax equivalent basis) rose to 4.4% in the nine months through September 2008, from 3.76% during the same period in 2007. Its non-performing loans ratio rose from 2.32% in third-quarter 2007 to 2.68% in third-quarter 2008, though still lower than the industry average of 7.24%. The bank is working to curb its credit risk exposure, particularly reducing loans to the island’s ailing construction and commercial sectors. Santander Puerto Rico’s more than 465,000 clients have responded well, giving the bank a 40% loyalty score.


Juan Moreno, president and CEO


Trinidad & Tobago

Republic Bank


Founded in Trinidad in 1837, Republic Bank has grown into an eastern Caribbean banking powerhouse. In addition to a network of 40 branches throughout Trinidad and Tobago, it operates banking subsidiaries in Grenada, Guyana, the Cayman Islands, Barbados and Saint Lucia. Two other subsidiaries offer financial services: Republic Securities (full-service brokerage firm) and Republic Finance and Merchant Bank (investment and merchant banking). Republic Online, its Internet banking platform, has been expanded to service both retail and commercial clients. Though loans and advances grew by 15% in 2008, non-performing loans remained at 1.79%. The bank’s capital adequacy ratio was 23.92% in 2008, compared with 20.14% in 2007. Pre-tax core profits rose 17.7% in 2008, with assets growing 11.3% year-on-year. Republic Bank operates a flagship social investment program to promote self-sufficiency and development in the communities where it operates, including senior-citizen care, youth empowerment, poverty alleviation and support for sports and culture.


David Dulal-Whiteway, managing director



Banco Santander Uruguay


f_la_08By acquiring ABN AMRO’s local operations for $225 million in 2008, Banco Santander Uruguay catapulted itself to instantly become the country’s largest private sector bank. Before the acquisition, ABN AMRO Uruguay had consistently been ranked as the country’s best bank. Spain’s Banco Santander will now add its financial strength, banking know-how, global network and client base to the mix. Banco Santander Uruguay, which entered the country’s banking sector in 1980, now accounts for 32% of the Uruguayan private banking system’s total business volume. It ranks first in total assets, liabilities, loans and net worth in the South American country. Its 200,000 individual and corporate clients can bank at 40 branches nationwide, including 20% of all banking sector branches located outside of the capital city of Montevideo. More than 27% of the bank’s consumer and corporate clients now use its electronic banking services, giving it one of the market’s highest penetration levels.


Jorge Jourdan, CEO



BBVA Banco Provincial


f_la_09BBVA Banco Provincial was the only bank in its peer group to improve its overall market share in 2008, moving from fourth to third place. The bank maintains profitable growth, cost efficiency and quality customer service as its core objectives. Total deposits grew 38.9% in 2008, to $10.58 billion. Its gross loan portfolio also grew by 18.4%, allowing the bank to regain its second-place ranking in terms of gross loans. Net income in 2008 was the sector’s highest, soaring 35.5% year-on-year to $511 million. A key policy implemented in 2008 was an increase in liquidity reserves, to a current $4.98 billion. The bank’s delinquency ratio was 0.91%, compared with a sector average of 1.84%. Total assets rose by an annualized 36% in 2008, to $13.2 billion. BBVA Banco Provincial services its more than 2 million customers through a network of 319 nationwide branches and one overseas branch in neighboring Curacao.


Pedro Rodríguez Serrano, executive president


World’s Best Banks Middle East



Ahli United Bank


f_me_01Ahli United Bank is being cautious in the current economic environment and has increased its provisions to cover specific non-performing loans, in addition to its general provision balances. Last year, despite difficult conditions for funding, AUB refinanced an $800 million syndicated loan facility with 28 banks. AUB has imposed strict controls on costs, while deferring non-mandatory projects. It is concentrating on attracting deposits and staying well within its risk parameters. Management expects loan growth to be moderate this year compared to last year. AUB’s shares are listed on the stock exchanges in Bahrain and Kuwait.


Adel A. El-Labban, group CEO and managing director




Commercial International Bank (CIB)

Commercial International Bank posted a 31% increase in earnings in 2008. Its corporate lending rose 28% from a year earlier. CIB lends to a range of businesses, including tourism, agriculture, infrastructure and energy companies. The bank has the largest branch network among private sector banks in Egypt, as well as a leading market position in consumer loans, credit cards and mortgages. Newer offerings include wealth management services and auto loans. CIB is the leading custodian bank in Egypt and is the only sub-custodian for Egyptian global depositary receipt (GDR) programs.


Hisham Ezz Al-Arab, chairman and managing director



Parsian Bank


Tehran-based Parsian Bank is the largest private sector bank in Iran, with 3 million customers and 186 branches. It plans to open about 20 new branches this year. Established in 2002, Parsian Bank was one of the first private banks licensed to operate in the country since the banking system was nationalized following the 1979 revolution. Iran’s privately owned banks have helped to upgrade banking services in the country, with the introduction of new technology and smart cards. Parsian Bank also offers insurance and leasing services.


Ali Soleimani Shayesteh, managing director



Commercial Bank of Iraq


f_me_02Commercial Bank of Iraq is an affiliate of Bahrain-based Ahli United Bank. AUB acquired a 49% stake in the Iraqi bank in December 2005 and has helped to modernize its processes and upgrade its services. AUB installed a wireless voice and data network connecting all of its branches in the country. In November 2008 Commercial Bank of Iraq became the first bank in Iraq to receive a license from MasterCard Worldwide to issue credit and debit cards. The bank offers commercial and retail banking, as well as brokerage services on the Baghdad Stock Exchange.


Basil Al-Dhahi, CEO and managing director





Mizrahi Tefahot

Israel’s largest banks, Leumi and Hapoalim, suffered in 2008. Consequently, Global Finance has instead chosen Mizrahi Tefahot, Israel’s fourth-largest bank by assets, as the best bank in the country. Mizrahi Tefahot’s ROE in the January-September 2008 period was 12.1%—the highest in the banking system. And while Israel’s leading banks—Leumi, Hapoalim, Israel Discount Bank and First International Bank of Israel—suffered an aggregate fall in profits of 82% in the third quarter, Mizrahi Tefahot’s profit fell just 4.3%.


Eliezer Yones, president and CEO



Arab Bank

Amman-based Arab Bank, with $46 billion in assets, is one of the largest financial institutions in the Middle East region. Its earnings rose 8.4% last year to $840 million, the highest in its 78-year history. Customer deposits rose 27% in 2008, as the conservatively run bank has benefitted from the fact that it is viewed as a safe haven. Arab Bank has a global network of 500 branches in 30 countries. The bank also owns 40% of Saudi Arabia-based Arab National Bank. Last year Arab Bank acquired a 19% stake, as well as management control, of Libya-based Wahda Bank. Arab Bank recently opened a subsidiary in Khartoum, Sudan, known as Arab Sudanese Bank.


Abdel Hamid Shoman, chairman and CEO



National Bank of Kuwait

National Bank of Kuwait is rated as one of the world’s safest banks in Global Finance’s most recent ranking—which is based on credit ratings—having joined the list for the first time this year. The bank’s strong financial position and conservative approach to risk have helped it live up to its motto of “the bank you know and trust.” NBK has a global network of offices, including 69 in Kuwait. In 2008 it acquired a 40% stake in Turkish Bank and opened its first branch in Dubai. In November 2007 it acquired Al Watany Bank of Egypt.


Ibrahim Dabdoub, group CEO





f_me_03BLOM Bank is the market leader in Lebanon in terms of the size of its retail loan portfolio. It also offers commercial loans and trade finance in 53 branches in Lebanon. BLOM Bank’s trade finance volume grew more than 18% last year from 2007, to nearly $5 billion. BLOM Bank’s Arope Insurance subsidiary, one of the leaders in the industry in Lebanon, has operations in Syria and Egypt, as well. BLOM has the most extensive overseas network of any bank based in Lebanon. It has a presence in five European countries and is also about to open an investment subsidiary in Saudi Arabia.


Saad Azhari, chairman and general manager





f_me_04BankMuscat’s earnings rose 11.2% in 2008 from a year earlier. Oman’s largest lender, BankMuscat had nearly a 30% jump in net interest income last year. Its $15 billion in assets equals 44% of Oman’s total banking assets. BankMuscat has clients from all sectors of the economy. It is the only Oman-based bank with a branch in Saudi Arabia, where it also has obtained a license to set up an investment bank, and it plans to continue its international expansion this year by opening a branch in Kuwait, focusing on corporate/SME and retail banking. BankMuscat has acquired a strategic stake of 35% in Saudi Pak Commercial Bank, which has 55 branches in Pakistan. In Bahrain, BankMuscat owns 49% of BMI Bank, formerly BankMuscat International.




AbdulRazak Ali Issa, CEO



Qatar National Bank

Qatar National Bank’s earnings surpassed the $1 billion mark in 2008 for the first time ever. The bank’s assets rose by 33% to $42 billion, making it one of the largest banks in the region. QNB is in the process of introducing a more extensive line of Islamic products in both its corporate and retail banking businesses. QNB also introduced QNB-Syria this year as a joint venture with local investors. In a heavily oversubscribed IPO in August, QNB sold a 32.5% stake in the Damascus-based bank. In Qatar, QNB is expanding its branch network, which is already the largest in the country.


Ali Sharif Al-Emadi, group CEO


Saudi Arabia

Samba Financial Group


f_me_05Samba Financial Group is one of the largest financial institutions in Saudi Arabia, with assets of $48 billion at the end of 2008, an increase of 16% from a year earlier. Samba is the top provider of corporate financial services in the country. It is also the leader in private banking and asset management. In January 2008 the bank began operating its Samba Capital & Investment Management subsidiary, licensed by the Capital Market Authority. Samba continued to expand abroad in 2008. Samba Bank (Pakistan), a 68.4%-owned subsidiary, opened 10 new branches. Samba also opened its first branch in Dubai and obtained licenses to operate in Qatar and India. It has operated as a full-service bank in the United Kingdom for 20 years.



Eisa Al-Eisa, managing director and CEO



Bank Audi Syria

Bank Audi Syria started with a single branch in Damascus in 2005 and now has a network of 20 branches in the country. The bank’s assets grew by 61% in 2008 to $1.3 billion, and it doubled its lending for the third year in a row to $416 million. Bank Audi Syria was the main lead arranger last year of a $380 million syndicated loan for Syrian Cement, a subsidiary of France-based Lafarge. In March 2009 the bank introduced the Audi Index, the first index to track the nascent Damascus Securities Exchange. Syria has begun to liberalize its economy after years of state control.


Bassel Hamwi, deputy chairman and general manager


United Arab Emirates

Emirates NBD

Dubai-based Emirates NBD was formed in October 2007 from the merger of Emirates Bank and National Bank of Dubai. The largest bank by assets in the Middle East, Emirates NBD is the leading retail bank in the United Arab Emirates. The integration of the group’s ATMs has been completed, giving it the biggest such network in the country. The bank’s assets increased by 11% in 2008 from a year earlier to $77 billion. Earnings for 2008 fell 7% to $1 billion and were affected by write-downs and impairments on investment and other securities. The bank’s core businesses have performed well, with growth of 26% in loans and 15% in deposits last year. Emirates NBD accounts for nearly 20% of corporate loans in the UAE and is a leading investment bank.


Rick Pudner, CEO



Arab Bank Yemen

Jordan-based Arab Bank has been operating in Yemen for 37 years and was the first bank to introduce ATMs in the country. It also has financed large-scale projects in electric power, communications and highways. Arab Bank Yemen offers trade finance and money transfer services in addition to loans and credit cards. Yemen produces about 320,000 barrels of oil per day and is pushing to increase its liquid natural gas output. Yemen LNG has chartered four vessels and will soon begin shipping LNG to markets in North America and Asia, completing a $4 billion project that began in 2005.


Omar Ibrahim al-Sous, country manager


World’s Best Banks Africa



Arab Bank Yemen

Jordan-based Arab Bank has been operating in Yemen for 37 years and was the first bank to introduce ATMs in the country. It also has financed large-scale projects in electric power, communications and highways. Arab Bank Yemen offers trade finance and money transfer services in addition to loans and credit cards. Yemen produces about 320,000 barrels of oil per day and is pushing to increase its liquid natural gas output. Yemen LNG has chartered four vessels and will soon begin shipping LNG to markets in North America and Asia, completing a $4 billion project that began in 2005.


Omar Ibrahim al-Sous, country manager



BES Angola


africa1BES Angola, a subsidiary of Lisbon-based Banco Espírito Santo, has $2 billion of loans outstanding in Angola, a major producer of oil and diamonds. While the Angolan economy has boomed since the end of a lengthy civil war in 2002, it is beginning to feel the effects of the global economic slowdown and the decline in oil prices. Economic growth could still reach close to 10% in 2009, following a 15% increase in gross domestic product last year. BES Angola has concentrated its lending on the construction, trade, health and education sectors. The bank was recognized recently by the United Nations for promoting sustainable development and protecting the environment.



Alvaro Sobrinho, CEO



Standard Chartered Bank Botswana

Standard Chartered Bank Botswana is the oldest bank in landlocked Botswana, which has one of the highest per-capita incomes in Africa. Botswana, the world’s largest producer of diamonds, is feeling the effects of a global downturn in gem prices, however, and its economy will likely decline in 2009. Standard Chartered has 16 branches and agencies in Botswana, and it is one of the top retail banks in the country. It is also the leading provider of corporate banking services in Botswana, including cash management, trade finance and credit facilities.


David Cutting, CEO


Côte d’Ivoire

Ecobank Côte d’Ivoire

Ecobank Côte d’Ivoire is one of the oldest banks in the pan-African Ecobank group. It was established in 1989 when Ecobank acquired the local assets of Chase Manhattan Bank. Ecobank now has 16 branches in the country, which is a major coffee and cocoa producer. A five-year civil war ended in 2007, and economic growth was beginning to recover when a slump in commodity prices hit last year. Ecobank has continued to perform well throughout the years of political unrest.


Charles Daboiko, managing director



Nib International Bank (NIB)


africa2Nib International Bank (NIB) opened 10 new branches in 2008, giving it 41 branches and two foreign exchange bureaus in Ethiopia. NIB signed an agreement in January 2009 to handle the online settlement services for the Ethiopian Commodity Exchange. The bank has begun linking its branches electronically and will soon introduce an ATM system. Ethiopia is Africa’s largest coffee producer, and its economy has been hurt by declining prices for coffee beans and a poor recent crop.


Amerga Kassa, president



Trust Bank

Trust Bank, which is Gambia’s only indigenous bank, has offices in Banjul, Kombos and other locations along the Gambia River. While the small West African country’s economy still relies heavily on the processing of peanuts and fish, Gambia has a growing tourism industry. Trust Bank was listed on the Ghana Stock Exchange in 2002, becoming the first cross-border listing in the region. Trust Bank’s network of 13 branches is the largest in Gambia.


Pa Makoumba Njie, managing director



Ghana Commercial Bank


Ghana Commercial Bank’s earnings rose by more than 14% last year, as the country’s largest bank continued to expand rapidly. The bank opened 12 new branches in 2008 and another in February 2009, bringing its network total to 149. GCB also boosted its total loans and advances by more than 45% in 2008 compared to a year earlier. The bank added to its loan-loss provisions to support the increase in lending. Customer deposits rose by 22.7% last year. In October 2008 GCB became the first bank in Ghana to offer MasterCard services.


Lawrence Newton Adu-Mante, managing director



International Commercial Bank

International Commercial Bank, Guinea, is part of Malaysia-based ICB Banking, an international banking group with a focus on emerging markets. The holding company of ICB Banking is Switzerland-based ICB Financial Group Holdings, which is listed on the AIM board of the London Stock Exchange. ICB Guinea’s earnings rose by more than 20% in 2008, and its loan portfolio increased by more than 25%. The bank opened its fourth branch last year in the capital of Conakry.


Ananta Padmanabhan, CEO



Barclays Bank of Kenya


London-based Barclays has operated in Kenya for more than 90 years and, perhaps not surprisingly, Barclays Bank of Kenya is the country’s leading bank by assets. It is listed on the Nairobi Stock Exchange. The bank has developed an extensive network in Kenya, with 114 branches and 225 ATMs. Tea and tourism are the country’s main foreign exchange earners. A drought is exacerbating the impact of the global economic crisis on the country, with gross domestic product expected to grow about 2% in 2009.


Adan Mohamed, managing director



Wahda Bank


Libya, which has the largest proven oil reserves in Africa, has opened the door to foreign investment and is seeking to modernize its banking system. Last year Arab Bank, the largest bank in Jordan, purchased a 19% stake in Wahda Bank in an auction. Arab Bank gained control of Wahda Bank’s board and has an option to increase its stake to 51% in the medium term. This was the second bank privatization in Libya, following the sale of a 19% stake in Sahara Bank in 2007 to BNP Paribas. Wahda Bank has approximately a 20% share of the Libyan banking market.


Mahdi Alawi, general manager



Mauritius Commercial Bank

Mauritius Commercial Bank (MCB) is the oldest and largest bank in this Indian Ocean nation 560 miles east of Madagascar. MCB has a 40% market share in terms of loans and deposits. It has 42 branches spread across the island. While sugar cane remains the chief crop and accounts for 25% of export earnings, Mauritius has made the transition to a service economy. The capital city of Port Louis has developed into a regional financial center. Call centers and data processing firms serve businesses in India and South Africa.


Pierre-Guy Noel, group CEO



Attijariwafa Bank


Casablanca-based Attijariwafa Bank is Morocco’s largest bank, with more than 550 branches. The group owns shares in banks in Tunisia, Mali, Côte d’Ivoire, Congo, Gabon and Senegal. Attijariwafa Bank opened a branch in Libya’s capital, Tripoli, in February 2009. The bank specializes in infrastructure financing and has completed major projects in the health, education, transport, energy, IT and telecom sectors.


Mohamed El Kettani, CEO



Standard Bank Namibia

Standard Bank Namibia is part of the pan-African network of South Africa-based Standard Bank. Established in 1915, Windhoek-based Standard Bank Namibia has 40 branches. The corporate and investment banking unit has a significant market share in the public, mining and financial services sectors. The bank offers corporate advisory services, as well as cash management, trade-related and custody services.


Mpumzi Pupuma, managing director




FirstBank’s earnings rose by 43% in the nine months ended December 31, 2008, compared to the same period a year earlier. FirstBank is one of the top three banks in Nigeria, with $10 billion of assets. It has a network of 489 branches in the country. The FirstBank (UK) subsidiary in London offers a full range of retail and corporate banking services and has a branch in Paris. FirstBank is a leader in financing infrastructure investments in Nigeria.


Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, group general manager and CEO



Banque Commerciale du Rwanda

Kigali-based Banque Commerciale du Rwanda (BCR) was privatized in 2004. BCR is 80% owned by UK-based private equity group Actis Capital. The government of Rwanda retained a 20% stake. BCR has seven branches, and it focuses on retail banking and lease financing for small businesses. Rwanda has an agricultural economy with few mineral resources. Its main exports are coffee and tea.


David Kuwana, managing director



Ecobank Senegal

Senegal is one of 26 African countries where the Ecobank group operates. Ecobank Senegal, based in Dakar, has 16 branches throughout the country. Last year it joined with the International Finance Corporation to establish a risk-sharing facility for loans extended to small enterprises owned by women. The bank will share any losses on a 50-50 basis with the IFC. Meanwhile, Randgold Resources, which owns gold mines in West Africa, said in April 2009 that a deposit in Senegal has the potential to be one of its top discoveries.


Ehouman Kassi, managing director


South Africa

Standard Bank

Johannesburg-based Standard Bank operates in 38 countries, including 18 in Africa. The bank has 681 branches in South Africa and 332 in the rest of Africa. In 2008 Standard Bank’s earnings rose 8% from a year earlier to $1.7 billion. Earnings per share declined slightly due to the issuance of new shares to Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, which paid $5.5 billion for a 20% stake in the Johannesburg-based bank. Standard Bank has expanded its African network in recent years to take advantage of the faster growth in the region’s emerging markets.


Jacko Maree, group CEO



Al Salam Bank Sudan

Al Salam Bank has been offering Islamic banking services in Sudan since 2005 and has broadened its products to include insurance and real estate. The bank’s shares are listed on the stock exchanges in Khartoum and Dubai. Sudan is one of the few countries where the entire banking system operates in compliance with shariah law. Al Salam Bank opened an office in Bahrain in 2006 and declared Manama its regional hub in 2007. Al Salam Bank Algeria opened a national headquarters and a branch in Tripoli in October 2008.


Hussein Mohammed Almeeza, vice chairman and managing director




Lomé-based Ecobank operates in 26 African countries. It entered a partnership agreement in March 2009 with South Africa-based Nedbank to provide combined borderless banking services in more than 1,000 branches in 30 countries. The aim is to create a pan-African bank offering the same comprehensive services throughout the network that are offered in South Africa. The shares of Ecobank Transnational, Ecobank’s parent, are traded on the stock exchanges in Ghana, Nigeria and Côte d’Ivoire.


Arnold Ekpe, CEO



Banque de Tunisie

Banque de Tunisie’s cautious risk management policy has helped it gain the highest ratings of any Tunisian bank. Paris-based Crédit Industriel et Commercial holds a 23% stake in the Tunis-based bank, which has 86 branches with the opening this year of two new branches in Sfax, the country’s second-largest city. Although its proven reserves are much smaller than those of its neighbors, Tunisia is encouraging foreign investment in its oil and gas industry. It is currently a net importer of refined petroleum products.


Alia Abdallah, president director-general



Stanbic Bank Uganda

Stanbic Bank Uganda, the country’s largest bank, is part of South Africa’s Standard Bank group, which owns 80% of its shares. The Kampala-based bank’s earnings rose 48% in 2008, as its loan portfolio increased by 53%. The landlocked country is suffering through an acute power shortage, which threatens to slow economic growth. Uganda’s economy has been one of the fastest growing in sub-Saharan Africa in recent years.


Philip Odera, managing director



Standard Chartered Bank Zambia

Standard Chartered Bank Zambia lends to small enterprises as well as big mining companies. UK-based Standard Chartered established the Lusaka-based bank more than 100 years ago. Its network has grown to 18 branches. A decline in copper demand from China and the West earlier this year slowed Zambia’s economic growth, but there are signs of demand picking up again more recently. Zambia depends on copper and cobalt for nearly two-thirds of its export revenue.


Mizinga Melu, managing director


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