Global Finance presents its 28th annual listing of the best banks worldwide and names the best global, regional, and national winners from more than 160 countries and regions.
The world is starting to see the glimmering of light at the end of the long Covid-19 pandemic tunnel, but for most there is still a long way to go. After more than a year of ensuring client support remained uninterrupted, remodeling operations to meet the new realities, reorganizing supply chains and protecting employees, banks are referring to “pre-pandemic level” more frequently in their conversations.
J.P. Morgan, which takes the top honor as Global Finance’s World’s Best Bank 2021 as well as World’s Best Investment Bank and World’s Best Private Bank, kept its clients afloat during the early days of the pandemic while remaining a commanding global presence in raising capital, processing payments and reaffirming its commitment to sustainability.
Global Finance selected J.P. Morgan and other winners of the World’s Best Banks 2021 awards based on their performance over the past year and other criteria, including their reputation, management excellence and leadership in digital transformation and corporate citizenship. J.P. Morgan, for one, went the extra mile by quickly addressing the needs of its clients. The bank provided more than $28 billion in funding for small businesses globally—not including the $4 billion provided by the US Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program—as well as extending more than $18 billion in credit.
Return to Normality?
Although J.P. Morgan and other financial institutions entered the initial phases of the pandemic in healthy positions and have made great strides in maintaining and growing support for their clients, it is too early for the banking industry to consider itself out of the woods, say the experts.
In March 2021, Moody’s updated its outlook of the US banking system to “stable” from “negative,” citing the industry’s improving operating environment and the slight buildup of reserves, which are expected to mitigate any pandemic-related charge-offs.
“We expect to see higher economic growth and lower unemployment, as the recovery that started in the second half of 2020 takes firmer hold," said Rita Sahu, vice president and senior credit officer for Moody’s Financial Institutions Group, at the time. "Additionally, asset risk has stabilized due to the significant reserves banks set aside as the coronavirus pandemic raged in 2020, while the realization of pandemic-related net charge-offs has been deferred because of forbearance programs and fiscal support.”
Three months later, S&P Global Ratings also dropped its net negative outlook for the global banking sector to 1%; it had been 31% in October 2020. According to the ratings agency, its ratings outlook for 75% of banks is stable, up 10% from October.
However, the analysts expect that only nine of the top 20 banking systems will reach their pre-pandemic levels by 2022, while the rest might not reach it until 2023 or later, since many jurisdictions already have begun withdrawing their support for their economies.
“There is an inevitable lag effect on banks' credit profiles as household and corporate borrowers recover from the pandemic,” wrote the authors of S&P’s 2021 Midyear Outlook. “Banks need time to work through their asset quality difficulties. While bank profitability will unquestionably remain muted in the continuing ultralow interest rate environment, lenders are better capitalized, more liquid and less leveraged compared with where they were in 2009 (the other significant recent downturn affecting banks globally).”
Along with the Best Bank in the World, global honors include Best Corporate Bank, Best Consumer Bank, best banks worldwide in emerging and frontier markets, Best Bank for Sustainable Finance, Best Global Transaction Bank and Best Sub-custodian Bank. All are being announced here for the first time. Previously announced honors included Best Islamic Financial Institution, Best Investment Bank, Best Cash Management Bank, Best Trade-Finance providers, Best Supply Chain Finance providers, Best Foreign Exchange Provider, Best Private Bank, and Global Outstanding Financial Innovator.
The editors of Global Finance, with input from industry analysts, corporate executives and technology experts, selected the winners for the World’s Best Banks 2021 using information provided by banks and other providers as well as independent research, based on a series of objective and subjective factors.
It isn’t necessary to enter in order to win, but experience shows that the additional information supplied in an entry can increase the chance of success. In many cases, entrants presented details that may not be readily available to the editors.
Judges considered performance over the period from January 1 to December 31, 2020, except for global winners, for which developments in the first half of 2021 were also considered. Global Finance then applied a proprietary algorithm to shorten the list of contenders and arrive at a numerical score, with 100 signifying perfections. The algorithm weights a range of criteria for relative importance, including knowledge of local conditions and customer needs, financial strength and safety, strategic relationships and governance, competitive pricing, capital investment and innovation in products and services.
Once the judges narrowed the field, they examined the final criteria, including scope of global coverage, size and experience of staff, customer service, risk management, range of products and services, execution skills and use of technology. In the case of a tie, the judges lean toward local providers rather than global institutions. The panel also tends to favor private-sector banks over government-owned institutions.
The winners are those banks and providers that best serve the specialized needs of corporations engaged in global business. We seek to honor not the biggest institutions but the best: those with qualities companies should look for when choosing a provider.
BEST BANK IN THE WORLD
To be the best bank in the world, an institution must be like a decathlete—not the top performer in a single event but among the top performers across multiple events. J.P. Morgan which maintains a presence in more than 100 markets worldwide, has won Global Finance’s 2021 Best Bank in the World award for its broad coverage, digital-first strategy and commitment to sustainability.
Active in more than 100 markets worldwide, the bank has existing relationships with more than 80% of the Fortune 500 companies while processing daily payments in excess of $8 trillion and purchasing and selling of securities for approximately $2.7 trillion daily in 2020. At the same time, J.P. Morgan’s equity capital markets team raised $389 billion from 563 deals globally, which represented a third of the market.
J.P. Morgan is also during a multiyear technology refresh that will further enable it to harness its data and artificial intelligence to provide clients a more seamless experience. Among other things, the program has expanded client connectivity options, which will help them participate in multidealer platforms more efficiently.
J.P. Morgan's corporate and investment banking business reached a carbon-neutral status in 2020, to the point where it sources 100% of its global power needs from renewable sources. Along the way, the bank launched its Center of Carbon Transition, which provides clients access to sustainable financing, research and advice regarding sustainability.
BEST CORPORATE BANK
Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria (BBVA), 2021 Best Corporate Bank, witnessed significant changes in 2020 as it divested its US and Paraguay subsidiaries. PNC Financial Group acquired BBVA USA for $11.6 billion in an all-cash transaction, while Banco GNB Paraguay paid the more modest sum of $250 million for BBVA Paraguay. The transactions put BBVA on a solid financial footing at the end of 2020, with its Common Equity Tier 1 Capital ratio reaching 14.6%—above the bank’s target of 11.5 to 12%. Although the bank’s nonperforming loan (NPL) rate inched toward 4% over the same period, its NPL Coverage Ratio was 81%, which is the highest it has been in more than 20 years.
Throughout 2020, BBVA deployed several platforms as part of its ongoing digitalization drive across its businesses. Among them is its supply-chain finance application, Global NetCash, which provides electronic access to account information and global positions to help drive business in Europe, the US and South America. BBVA also deployed apps tailored to the needs of small and midsize enterprises (SMEs). BBVA Empresas, which the bank launched in Germany, lets SMEs and the self-employed manage their businesses from their mobile phones. Meanwhile, across the Atlantic, the bank’s Mexican subsidiary launched its Banco de Barrio initiative, aimed at promoting banking and digitalization for local SMEs.
BEST CONSUMER BANK
Royal Bank of Canada
Throughout a bumpy 2020, the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) doubled down on its digitalization efforts to improve the experience of its retail clients, winning our 2021 Best Consumer Bank award for its efforts.
The bank introduced a fully digital client onboarding service, dubbed Remote Account Open, whose identity-verification capability can scan a government-issued ID and populate the data into a client’s profile.
RBC also added a chatbot powered by artificial intelligence, called Ask NOMI, to its mobile app, which helps users navigate the app and perform common tasks like canceling e-transfers, reviewing payment details and analyzing spending patterns. Other features of the bank's mobile app are streaming quotes and trade execution capabilities for retail investors.
The technology investments have paid off for RBC, as it added five million users of its mobile app when compared with 2019, a 12% increase.
The bank’s increased spending on technology also helped it increase its mortgage retention rate by approximately 400 basis points to between 91% to 92%. With RBC renewing from $70 billion to $80 billion of mortgages annually, every basis point increase is significant to the bottom line.
BEST EMERGING MARKETS BANK
Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC)
With its global footprint, strong risk management and solid Tier-1 capital reserves, the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC) takes the prize for World’s Best Emerging Markets Bank for 2021. The Bank operates an overseas network in 49 countries while having 125 branch institutions in the 21 nations that are part of China’s Belt-and-Road Initiative. It granted more than 680 billion renminbi ($105.3 billion) in loans to domestic and foreign clients during the first half of 2021. ICBC also has expanded its digital offerings to include electronic import letters of credit as well as letters of guarantee of consolidated tax collection.
Meanwhile, the bank has reduced the amount of overdue loans, its overdue ratio, special-mention loans and special-mention ratios since the start of the year by strengthening its risk-management systems and addressing emerging risks, such as climate risk and model risk. ICBC also has implemented new credit approval rules and risk-accountability mechanisms for its domestic branches.
Throughout the tumultuous 2020, the bank has maintained a firm capital reserve, with its core Tier 1 Capital Adequacy Ratio dipping only two basis points, to 13.18% from 2019, while its Capital Adequacy Ratio increased 11 basis points to 16.88% over the same period.
BEST FRONTIER MARKETS BANK
Société Générale’s expanding geographic coverage, local expertise and commitment to sustainable finance has netted the global bank the World’s Best Frontier Markets Bank award for 2021. SocGen’s long commitment to serving West African and sub-Saharan markets is well known, with locations in 19 countries and a presence in 12 other nations via its cooperation agreement with Absa. However, the global bank has also developed a healthy footprint in the Asia-Pacific region as well as Central and Eastern Europe. Initiatives such as SocGen’s African Express have simplified and expanded the Africa-China trade channel via the bank’s trade specialists. The bank’s prowess in sustainable finance has brought green investments to the frontier markets, such as its financing of a 20-megawatt solar power plant in Ambatolampy, Madagascar, which has brought much-needed investment to the region. SocGen also has furthered its eco-forward commitment by establishing a head of sustainable finance for Asia-Pacific in the past year.
BEST GLOBAL TRANSACTION BANK
As the Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated the diversification of global supply chains, we name BNP Paribas World’s Best Global Transaction Bank for 2021 for its continued digitalization, broad market offerings and subject-matter expertise. Through its 100 trade centers located in 60 countries and staffed by approximately 350 trade experts, the bank offers services to optimize client cash conversion cycles. These range from supplier financing programs to structured receivable facilities, which clients can manage via web-based platforms in a secure and multilingual environment.
BNP Paribas also has worked with clients to meet the growing demands by regulators for environmental, social and governance (ESG) requirements within working capital cycles. Although most ESG mandates haven’t affected corporate treasury and are ill-fitted for working capital financing’s short-term nature compared to the long-term nature of project financing, the bank has developed a sustainable supplier financing framework within such jurisdictions as Singapore.
BEST SUB-CUSTODIAN BANK
Efficiency improvements, product innovation and the adoption of strategic partnerships fueled BNY Mellon’s win as the World Best Sub-Custodian Bank for 2021.
To address the growing corporate and institutional interest in digital assets, the bank launched its Digital Asset business in February, tasked with developing a multiasset digital custody and administration platform that would support standard and digital assets while linking to clients via standard connections. To help the cross-business and cross-functional team achieve its goal, BNY Mellon has partnered with fintech startup Fireblocks, which specializes in the storage, movement and issuance of cryptocurrencies.
The bank also has a joint 50-50 venture with Canadian Imperial Bank, dubbed CIBC Mellon, which acts as fund administrator for the first Canadian Bitcoin- and Ether-based exchange-traded fund while it services and additional 14 cryptocurrency offerings.
CEO—Thomas (Todd) Gibbons
BEST BANK FOR SUSTAINABLE FINANCE
Banking giant Société Générale’s pioneering efforts and dedication to the growing field of finance guided by environmental, social and governance (ESG) principles have won it our award for the World’s Best Bank for Sustainable Finance for 2021. SocGen has embraced and innovated the use of sustainability linked bonds (SLBs) and sustainability linked loans that require issuers and borrower to pay higher interest if they don’t meet predefined sustainability goals. The bank served as a structuring adviser and active bookrunner for food retailer Ahold Delhaize when it issued a €600 million (approximately $710 million) SLB yielding 0.375% in March. In 2020, SocGen served as a joint bookrunner for Asia’s first blue bond, which the Bank of China issued for $942.5 million, and for the first sustainability linked convertible bond, which Schneider Electric issued for €650 million. During a busy 2020, SocGen also participated in some of the largest SLB issuances, including the $4 billion issuance by energy firm Enel Group.
BEST ISLAMIC FINANCIAL INSTITUTION
Kuwait Finance House
Kuwait Finance House, our 2021 Best Islamic Financial Institution, has products and services that cover the gamut of commercial, retail and corporate banking needs as well as real estate, trade finance and investments.
The bank pushed forward with its digitalization strategy throughout 2020. It launched its digital onboarding solution and worked with digital bank platform provider Aion Digital to digitize KFH’s retail and corporate offerings. By December 31, 2020, the bank witnessed a 24% increase in the amount of account on its e-service from the start of the year. It also saw a 169% increase in opening time-deposit accounts and a 200% increase in banking transfers during the same period. KFH brought 103,500 new users online, who executed 139.6 million transactions via its online platform, including 11.1 million pay transactions.
The bank ended 2020 with $71 billion in assets, an increase of more than 10%, with equity of $6.9 billion. KFH’s net profit was $600 million while its return on average equity was 8.8%, which was lower than in 2019 as the bank increased credit provisions due to Covid-19 and the uncertainty of future developments. Financing rose by 13% through the year, as did depositors accounts.
Acting Group CEO–Abdulwahab Al-Roshood
BEST INVESTMENT BANK
Top performance during 2020 earned J.P. Morgan the title of 2021 Best Global Investment Bank. The firm’s investment banking fees were up 25% for the year to their highest level in a decade, giving the bank a 9.2% market share based on investment bank fees. At the same time, J.P. Morgan’s advisory fees grew 19% year-on-year compared with 2019.
The bank’s equities market team raised $389 billion in capital in 563 deals worldwide in 2020, representing a third of the market while acting as an adviser to the two largest healthcare deals in the past year—Alexion Pharmaceuticals’ $39 billion sale to AztraZeneca and Immunomomedics’ $21 billion sale to Gilead Sciences.
J.P Morgan’s debt capital market team hit a record in 2019 by obtaining a near 10% share of the market. The bank’s fixed income, currency and commodities (FICC) business earned a 12.9% market share, while its FX traders made approximately 12 trades per second at peak trading times.
CEO – Jamie Dimon
BEST CASH MANAGEMENT BANK
Bank of America
Bank of America is this year’s Best Bank for Cash Management on the strength of the actionable insights it provides its clients. In September the bank launched the next generation of its global Virtual Account Management offering to bring a single global view to companies and help them optimize their treasury operations, with greater cash management efficiencies.
“We have an extremely good view of the macro economy, global interest rates and overall consumer sentiment—all factors that inform client decisions around treasury strategy and cash investment,” says Matthew Davies, managing director and head of Global Transaction Services (GTS) for Europe, the Middle East and Africa and global co-head of corporate sales for GTS at Bank of America. “In today’s environment, we are advising our clients on how to prepare for negative interest rates. It’s critical to be one step ahead of such a situation and make the necessary changes to your operations and technology platforms now.”
CEO – Brian Moynihan
BEST TRADE FINANCE PROVIDER – NON-BANK
Stringent regulatory standards enacted after the 2008 global credit crisis require banks to hold more capital on their balance sheets, restricting cross-border trade for corporations and creating a $1.4 trillion to $1.6 trillion funding gap that equates to 8%-10% of global trade, the Asian Development Bank estimated in 2019. London-based Tradeteq’s financial technology uses artificial intelligence (AI) to reduce the trade finance gap by improving access for small and midsize enterprises (SMEs) and corporations.
Trade finance is a short-term, low-default, low-yield asset. But by providing an end-to-end solution with portfolio management, risk analytics and investment automation, Tradeteq makes investing in this asset class a more standardized and efficient process. Its platform transforms trade assets from invoice format into capital markets instruments, preserving the few basis points of yield for investors, and automates the distribution process.
Tradeteq’s portfolio-management and trading functions give investors access to thousands of instruments and the ability to monitor and report trades. To help investors maintain regulatory compliance, Tradeteq uses AI for credit scoring that more accurately represents a company’s risk profile, using real-time metrics.
CEO – Christoph Gugelmann
BEST TRADE FINANCE PROVIDER – BANK
As a connected global bank with trade operations in over 90 markets, Citi leverages its local teams and their local market knowledge to help clients that are quickly expanding into new markets and moving more goods between global regions.
At present, Citi transacts in over 130 currencies, enabling companies to standardize their worldwide operations. The bank is also a pioneer of distribution and syndication of trade assets, helping clients to efficiently scale these programs through its expertise, infrastructure and relationships.
Citi focuses on digitization. Its toolkit includes application programming interfaces (APIs) and host-to-host applications that provide greater connectivity and solutions, such as electronic signatures that allow clients to conduct business as usual while following health guidelines during the coronavirus pandemic. A founding bank of the standard-setting Trade Information Network, Citi also invested in the blockchain consortia Contour and Komgo.
BEST SUPPLY CHAIN FINANCE PROVIDER – BANK
With a global footprint spanning Europe, the UK, North America, Latin America, mainland China, Hong Kong and Singapore, Santander offers supply chain financing (SCF) solutions spanning multiple jurisdictions and currencies. Its Confirming offering, or reverse factoring, extends early payment to suppliers based on approved invoices from buyers. Operated locally in the bank’s core Latin American market, the offering is available globally. Santander also provides a wide range of financing solutions that address specific needs, including distributor finance; mass receivables; a global Receivables Purchase Program; and preconfirming, which serves SMEs using transactional data.
CEO – Jośe Antonio Álvarez Álvarez
BEST SUPPLY CHAIN FINANCE PROVIDER – NON-BANK
In the face of rising competition from fintechs, Orbian, which was founded in 1999 by software provider SAP and Citibank, has worked hard to establish itself as an innovator in the SCF space. With 100-plus buyer-led SCF programs already established, and more than 5,000 suppliers enrolled, its SCF platform has secured a reputation among suppliers for ease of use and enrollment. Its virtual-payment e-Card, which can be used in more than 150 countries, enables suppliers to get paid sooner, without having to go through the lengthy documentation process required in traditional supplier finance programs. The e-Card features enhanced privacy and security features. It provided as much as $400 million of liquidity to one supplier in its first months of operation, Orbian says. The company also recently launched Express SCF, which is designed to level the playing field by making SCF accessible for all suppliers, regardless of their size or where they are located.
Chairman – Thomas Dunn
BEST FOREIGN EXCHANGE PROVIDER
With a presence in some 100 countries, Citi provides electronic foreign exchange (FX) pricing locally across more than 85 of them, primarily through its CitiFX Pulse platform for corporate traders.
Citi engineered the integration of its electronic FX solutions with the back end of clients’ enterprise resource planning (ERP) and treasury management systems such that FX trade execution is fully automated from end to end. Its single-dealer FX platform, Citi Velocity, used by institutional investors, provides access to liquidity in more than 100 currencies. Greenwich Associates rates Citi “top of the field” for electronic trading, which accounts for 80% of its global FX trading volume.
CEO – Jane Fraser
BEST PRIVATE BANK
J.P. Morgan Private Bank
For years, changes in the high-net-worth marketplace have been pushing private banking out of its silo—or off its Swiss Alp—and toward integration with other elements of finance. High-net-worth individuals (HNWIs) have grown more entrepreneurial and want their wealth managers to act simultaneously as their investment bankers. Meanwhile, the path to getting rich has widened, elevating the importance of a feeder pool among mass-affluent clients.
J.P. Morgan, leaning on its powerful Chase retail arm, has been out ahead on both of these megatrends and keeps innovating to stay ahead. A restructuring late last year effectively merged Chase Private Client, for branch customers with balances of $250,000 or more, with private banking. (The $25 million-and-over crowd still have a division of their own.) HNWIs keep getting more and deeper market options, such as an internal trading desk for shares in pre-IPO companies.
J.P. Morgan Private Bank thinks both locally and globally, with success. Aggressive marketing of the Chase brand has made it the hometown bank for HNWI clients in New York and elsewhere in the US Northeast. It was also the among the fastest-growing global banks in Asia in 2019, expanding assets under management (AUM) an impressive 28%. And it is lengthening its Latin American reach with a raft of new hires in Houston and Miami.
CEO – Jamie Dimon
GLOBAL OUTSTANDING FINANCIAL INNOVATOR
Bank of America
Not even a pandemic could dry up the innovation wellspring at Bank of America (BofA) the winner of the 2021 Global Outstanding Financial Innovator award. The global powerhouse filed for 722 patents in 2020, topping its previous record; and the US Patent and Trademark Office has granted it another record-making 444 patents so far in 2021, even as patent grants overall shrank 1%.
The pandemic also turbocharged the bank’s innovation strategy. BofA’s use of e-signatures increase by 309% between April 2020 and March 2021, and in 2020 the CashPro app processed $174 billion in payments—more than the $159 billion processed by Venmo that year.
However, not all the bank’s innovations are technological in nature. In September 2020, BofA issued a $2 billion Equality Progress Sustainability Bond to advance racial equality, economic opportunity and environmental sustainability. It also has made numerous alliances and partnerships to support the global economy and communities most affected by the pandemic and economic downturn.
The approaches seem to be serving the bank well. From groundbreaking technologies to novel philanthropic approaches, BofA has been a leader in innovation.
CEO – Brian Moynihan
With a presence in 20 sub-Saharan Africa nations as well as global financial centers like Beijing, Dubai, London, New York and Sao Paulo, Standard Bank wins our award for the 2021 Best Bank in Africa. Its win is credited to its knowledge of the region developed over its more than 150 years of existence, its performance during the Covid-19 pandemic and programs tailored to its market.
Despite 2020’s strong headwinds, Standard Bank managed a return on equity (ROE) of 8.9%, a Common Equity Tier 1 ratio of 13.3%, which was about 180 basis points more than the bank’s targeted 10.0% –11.5% range that was approved by the board of directors, and a 19% increase in overall liquidity.
The bank spent much of last year further developing its OneFarm platform, designed to improve Africa’s agribusiness sector by giving farmers access to financial and other services that will let them migrate from subsistence to commercial farming. Standard bank is working with 150 stakeholders to electronically link farmers to other participants in the farm-to-fork supply chain to reduce the amount of current pain points.
Standard bank also began partnering with Salesforce.com in June 2020, to power the group’s digital platform and service the bank’s ecosystem of clients.
Group CEO – Sim Tshabalala
The Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, which services 8.5 million corporate clients and 660 million retail clients, wins the 2021 Best Bank in Asia-Pacific award for its broad coverage, crisis response and cutting-edge technology adoption.
The bank added a presence in Auckland and Panama in 2020, with each branch gaining their respective local operations licenses. With the additions, ICBC has offices in 49 countries outside of China as well as 1,442 correspondent banking relationships in 143 countries and regions across six continents.
During 2020, the bank focused on a coordinated revitalization in urban and rural areas in China. When the Covid-19 pandemic and a historic flood season hit China, ICBC sprang into action. It reduced fees and implemented profit concessions for clients hard hit by the catastrophes, which represented approximately 20 billion renminbi (approximately $3.1 billion) in relief. It also launched a diverse set of financing services for 3,000 affected enterprises, as well as a series of antiepidemic loans, medical insurance loans and employer loans tailored for micro, small, and midsize enterprises.
Meanwhile, the bank also introduced its ICBC Charity Chain, a blockchain-based platform that provides roughly 200 charities with integrated financial services while offering transparency and traceability of donated funds.
CEO – Jiang Jianqing
Banreservas takes the 2021 Best Bank in the Caribbean award for its treasury and cash management offering as well as its strong digitalization strategy. The Dominican bank has corresponding bank relationships with more than 50 foreign banks, providing a global footprint for clients.
Banreservas also has implemented the SWIFT-GPI service, which offers customers more transparency on transactions, shorter transaction times and improved traceability via unique transaction codes.
Throughout 2020, the bank also witnessed an 8.7% volume increase in digital transactions compared to the previous year, which accounted for 71% of all transactions conducted by Banreservas.
CEO – Simón Lizardo Mezquita
A dedicated effort to digitalization won BAC Credomatic this year’s award for Best Bank in Central America. The bank, which services Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua, implemented its WhatsApp web-based chat platform before the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic but ramped up its capabilities through 2020.
The digital channel has dramatically improved BAC’s efficiency with its clients. On one day, it handled 6,000 queries without needing to redirect any of them to a customer service agent for resolution.
Since the start of the pandemic, the automated platform has answered approximately half of all the queries made to the bank. Further effects of BAC’s successful digitalization strategy include a 52% drop in physical transactions at bank branches, a 30% drop in call volumes and a 22% drop in non-banking correspondence.
At the same time, the bank redesigned its corporate bank website, which includes support for SWIFT GPI payments that permit clients to trace their international payments transparently.
CEO – Rodolfo Tabash Espinach
CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE
Raiffeisen Bank International
Generating €804 million (around $944 million) in profits during Covid-19 lockdowns, interest rate cuts and currency devaluation, Raiffeisen Bank International (RBI) wins the 2021 award for Best Bank in Central and Eastern Europe. The bank, which has a presence in its home market of Austria and 13 other CEE markets, provides financial services, leasing, asset management and merger and acquisition offerings to its 17.2 million customers.
During the pandemic-caused disruptions, RBI supported its clients by extending maturities and adjusting loan terms, providing advice regarding state-aid packages and helping clients complete their aid applications. The bank also worked with Austrian asset manager C-Quadrat to create the €200 million Austrian Growth Fund, which will help fund midsize businesses that need additional liquidity to maintain their growth during difficult times.
Meanwhile, RBI has a head start with its digitalization effort. Prior to the pandemic, it deployed its RaiConnect platform, which enables customers and account managers to hold video conferences and exchange documents electronically. Approximately 43% of RBI clients are using the bank’s digital offerings, while in some jurisdictions, such as Russia and Slovakia, the adoption rate is as high as 60%.
CEO – Johann Strobl
Serving the Latin American market for approximately a century, Itaú Unibanco leveraged its significant regional network to win the 2021 Best Bank in Latin America award. The bank redoubled its commitment to serve its clients during the pandemic while accelerating its digital transformation to improve its efficiency. Throughout 2020, Itaú gained approximately one million new users for its digital channels while deploying more than 30 new features to it channels.
The bank also took a lead outside of finance to address the pandemic. Itaú has donated more than 1 billion Brazilian reals (approximately $191 million) to more than 600 care institutions that serve more than 50,000 elderly people (R$408 million), personal protective equipment and testing equipment for health professionals and patients (R$351 million), epidemiological and treatment research (RR$226 million) and public information and awareness campaigns (R$100 million).
CEO – Milton Maluhy Filho
Arab Bank’s strong regional performance and dedication to innovation have let the bank take home the Best Bank in the Middle East award for the sixth consecutive year. Despite a hard 2020, the bank generated a net income after taxes of $195.3 million in 2020, of which 70% came from 27 countries outside of its home base of Jordan.
The bank spent much of 2020 expanding the capabilities of its Arabi Mobile banking app for users in Jordon, Palestine, the UAE and Qatar, as well as rolling it out to users in Bahrain and Egypt. The new capabilities include instant registration, fingerprint-based login, a personalized app design, beneficiary management to speed money transfer and additional security features. The bank also launched two payment services based on its mobile platform—Arabi Pay in Jordan and PalPay in Palestine.
For its corporate clients, Arab Bank deployed Arabi SME, a platform that enables small and midsize businesses to apply online for SME business loans and a host of other banking privileges as well as access tools, such as loan/cost calculators.
The bank also made considerable strategic investments into innovation by launching an innovation hub, an accelerator and a venture fund in Jordan, the UAE and Egypt, respectively. It expects its three-prong business model to deliver substantial returns.
CEO – Nemeh Sabbagh
Royal Bank of Canada
With a significant service footprint in Canada, the US and the Caribbean and a broad array of offerings, leadership in technology and ever-increasing commitment to sustainability, the Royal Bank of Canada has won it Global Finance’s 2021 Best Bank in North America award.
The Canadian bank offers a compressive suite of consumer, commercial and investment banking services—such as lending, leasing, deposit, investment, foreign exchange, cash management, trade products and other products—while maintaining a presence in 36 countries worldwide.
During the Covid-19 pandemic, the bank launched its Aiden trading platform for cash equities. The AI-based system relies on deep reinforcement learning to decide where to route client orders. Unlike typical trading algorithms, Aiden does not need to stop to rewrite its code as market conditions change. RBC’s Institute for Research—Borealis AI—also introduce an online hub for the ethical use of AI that provides open-source and academic research, code libraries, lectures and other resources in one location.
Last year proved a significant year for sustainability for the bank, as well. RBC launched C$8.8 billion ($6.9 billion) in sustainable bonds, up approximately 64% compared to 2019. The bank also signed a long-term renewable-energy power purchase agreement with BluEarth Renewables that is anticipated to create two additional solar farms in the Canadian province of Alberta. They’re expected to add 300 new jobs and C$70 million to the provincial economy.
CEO – David McKay
Spanish institution CaxiaBank, winner of the 2021 Best Bank in Western Europe award, continues its dominate position on the Iberian peninsula with its €4.3 billion ($5.2 billion) acquisition of state-owned competitor Bankia, which it announced in 2020 and concluded earlier this year. The merged entity, with reportedly more than €650 billion in assets, has approximately 6,500 branches within Spain and approximately 51,500 employees.
During 2020, the bank strengthened is balance sheet and improved its efficiency while supporting it clients’ financial needs. During the pandemic, CaxiaBank managed to approve roughly 400,000 moratorium requests by clients and provided €83.7 billion in financing to the business sector, while handling 184,000 loan requests backed by Spain’s Institute of Official Credit for another €12.64 billion.
The pandemic also advanced the CaxiaBank’s digitalization strategy, whereby two out of three clients, or 67.6%, chose to interact with the bank via it digital channels in 2020.
CEO – Gonzalo Gortázar