Author: Gordon Platt, Jonathan Gregson, Santiago Fittipaldi

Emerging markets are poised to post their strongest growth in 20 years. Global Finance has picked the banks in 73 emerging market countries and four regions that have best been able to help their clients benefit from the upturn.

All regions of the developing world enjoyed a sharp increase in capital inflows last year, with the exception of the volatile Middle East and North Africa. The increased liquidity in industrialized countries spilled over into emerging markets, spelling better times for vast swaths of the world's population.

Emerging economies should post their strongest growth in two decades this year, but they need to be ready for a potential rise in international borrowing costs, the World Bank warned last month in its 2004 Global Development Finance report.

It is not easy to forecast where the next emerging markets crisis could erupt.Will it be an overheating in China's fast-growing economy or a sudden unwinding of the US current-account deficit that spells global catastrophe?

Right now, everything is suspiciously quiet. Investor confidence has been restored in most emerging markets without triggering the excesses that have caused problems in the past. It might be too good to last for long.

Global Finance has selected the banks that have performed well in the fastchanging environment of the past 12 months and that appear best positioned to withstand the challenges that surely lie around the next corner.With input from industry analysts, corporate executives and banking consultants we identified the banks that adhere to high standards of corporate governance and possess the imagination to succeed in a challenging environment.

Our criteria included growth in assets, profitability, strategic relationships, customer service, competitive pricing and innovative products.

Contributors: Gordon Platt,

Santiago Fittipaldi, Fiona Haddock

and Jonathan Gregson