Global news and insight for corporate financial professionals
Central bank rate-hiking may bring on a recession, unemployment and debt defaults. Some say that’s just the price of suppressing inflation.
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Companies that buyback their own shares will have to pay a new tax due to a provision in the Inflation Reduction Act.
Central bank rate-hiking may bring on a recession, unemployment and debt defaults. Some say that’s just the price of suppressing inflation.
Technology standards pay off big.
In the past 15 years, global peacefulness has fallen by more than 3%. Old and new conflicts, the pandemic and our political and cultural polarization are the main culprits.
Andreas Lutz, CEO of Fides Treasury Services speaks with Global Finance’s Founder and Editorial Director Joseph Giarraputo about the challenges facing treasury and finance professionals, how open banking and APIs are changing the bank connectivity landscape and the most important area for corporates to focus on related to cross-border payments.
Global Finance presents its 29th annual list of the best banks worldwide, which includes the global, regional and national winners from more than 150 countries and regions.
Rough seas make good sailors. The banking industry faces an ongoing pandemic, regional conflicts with global effects and increasing inflation for the foreseeable future. Add to that the growing economic and humanitarian impact of climate change, and these trends separate the best banks from their rivals.
DBS, which takes the top honor as Global Finance’s World’s Best Bank and Best Bank in Asia-Pacific, navigated these waters admirably while broadening its product portfolio, growing its business and investing in sustainability.
Global Finance selected DBS and the other World’s Best Bank winners for 2022 based on their performance throughout 2021 and other criteria, including their reputation, management excellence, leadership in digital transformation and corporate citizenship.
Among the metrics, DBS stood out across the board. As corporate citizenship morphs into environmental, social and governance (ESG) concerns, the bank has put its money where its mouth is. Last year, it committed 20.5 billion Singapore dollars (about $14.6 billion) in sustainable financing transactions and plans to commit SG$50 billion by 2024. The bank also has committed to zero thermal coal exposure by 2039 and has ceased onboarding clients that derive more than 25% of their revenue from thermal coal. As the target date draws closer, DBS will continue to lower the threshold.
A Brave New World
The hope that the global economy would turn the pandemic corner at the end of 2021 quickly disappeared during the early months of 2022. The new year brought regional conflict and harsher Covid-19 responses that have further disrupted global supply chains, from sourcing and transportation to storage, production and selling.
Russia’s February invasion of Ukraine and the resulting massive sanctions have triggered a dramatic spike in commodity prices for petroleum, natural gas, fertilizer, wheat, corn, sunflower oil and several base metals.
In May, the Organization for European Cooperation and Development (OECD) and World Trade Organization projected that the conflict would reduce global economic growth by 0.7 to 1.3 percentage points (pp), push up prices globally by about 2.5 pp, and slow global trade growth by up to 2.3 pp, noted Andres Schwarzenberg, an analyst in International Trade and Finance at the Congressional Research Service, in a report.
A month later, the World Bank said it expected “a protracted period of feeble growth and elevated inflation,” according to the bank’s Global Economic Prospects June edition. The report also estimated that global economic growth would fall to 2.9% from 5.7% and maintain that level for the next year or two.
On a regional level, Schwarzenberg estimates that the conflict would affect Europe longer and more severely than the US. Moody’s Investors Service researchers agreed—as cited in an August research announcement—that there is potential for the onset of stagflation in the EU. It is not certain that the necessary stagflation ingredients— inflation remains a multi-decade high while real GDP growth stays at zero or close to it— will occur.
“To enter into a stagflation scenario in the EU, price dynamics could be sustained. Due to, for instance, higher-for-longer energy prices and second-round effects, which would slow economic activity further as firms and households revise their expectations upwards for inflation and downwards for growth,” they wrote. “In addition, a growth-supporting fiscal-monetary policy mix could increase the risk of a stagflation scenario.”
The rest of 2022 and much of 2023 likely will put businesses worldwide through the most challenging quarters since the 2008-2009 global credit crisis. During these times, selecting the best financial partner to meets a firm’s needs will help it keep afloat and prosper.
Along with the World’s Best Bank, 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 Best SME Bank.
The editors of Global Finance, with input from industry analysts, corporate executives and technology experts, selected the winners for the World’s Best Banks 2022 using the 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 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 from January 1 to December 31, 2021, except for global winners, for which developments in the first half of 2022 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 perfection. 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 the 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 largest institutions but the best: those with qualities companies should look for when choosing a provider.
WORLD'S BEST BANK
Despite the continued pandemic, DBS witnessed growth in markets served, digitalization and product offerings in 2021, which earned it the title of the World’s Best Bank for the third time.
For much of last year, the bank pivoted from the strong Singapore-Hong Kong markets to expand its presence in China and Taiwan. The bank launched DBS Securities (China), a joint venture with four institutional investors in China, and received its securities business license in June 2021. DBS additionally acquired a 13% share in Shenzhen Rural Commercial Bank (SRCB), which makes it SRCB’s largest single shareholder. Meanwhile, across the Taiwan Straits, DBS also acquired Citi’s Citi Consumer Taiwan business in a transfer of assets and liability valued at 956 million Singapore dollars (about $683 million). According to bank officials, the deal expands the bank’s local presence, which began in 1983 and equates to at least 10 years of organic growth.
Separately, the bank also received regulatory approval to offer investment products to customers in the Greater Bay Area of Guangdong, Hong Kong and Macau via a partnership with the Postal Savings Bank of China.
DBS’s strong history of investments in artificial intelligence and other bleeding-edge technologies has borne significant fruit. With its hyperpersonalization capabilities, consumer banking and wealth management generated more than 30 million monthly insights using the bank’s NAV Planner. The bank’s advanced algorithms have led to greater scalability, efficiency and competitiveness, such as providing bespoke trading advice and more accurate prices for foreign exchange.
DBS further leveraged its technological expertise when it launched its DBS Fixed Income Execution Marketplace, which executed SG$4 billion worth of issuances during its first year of operation. Such growth in electronic transactions is common across the bank, which now has 90% of supply chain finance transactions happening on its digital platform.
CEO – Piyush Gupta
WORLD'S BEST CORPORATE BANK
Banking giant J.P. Morgan takes the honor as the World’s Best Corporate Bank coming off a strong 2021.
Its Corporate and Investment Banking (CIB) business raised approximately $1.5 trillion in capital and extended to clients worldwide. From that, it generated $52 billion in revenue.
The CIB business—which resulted from the merger of the bank’s investment bank, treasury and securities services business and corporate bank a decade ago—operates in more than 100 countries and serves 90% of Fortune 500 companies.
Over the past year, J.P. Morgan advised on more than 630 deals, totaling $1.5 trillion in value, including the announced $96 billion combination of Discovery and AT&T’s WarnerMedia business.
In the realm of payments, the bank’s payment business, formerly Treasury Services, Trade Finance, and Card and Merchant services, generated approximately $10 billion in revenue, which is 7% year-over-year growth. Many clients are drawn to its “one-stop shop” approach that spans the entire payment lifecycle, from managing payments in multiple currencies to aggregating and analyzing transaction data. The bank’s continued investment in AI and distributed ledger technology is expected to make the cross-border movement of money much easier for clients.
The CIB business reached a first in August 2021, when the China Securities Regulatory Commission approved J.P. Morgan International Finance’s 100% acquisition of J.P. Morgan Securities (China), which made it the first wholly owned securities business in China. Founded in 2019 and opened for business in March 2020, the local firm can now integrate CIB’s globally offered products, such as securities brokerage, securities investment advisory, and securities underwriting and sponsorship to its clients.
CEO – Jamie Dimon
WORLD'S BEST CONSUMER BANK
Since completing its 4.3 billion euro (about $4.3 billion) acquisition of state lender Bankia in May 2021, CaixaBank has become one of the largest consumer banks, with 20 million clients globally. Its dedication to customers and the communities it serves has earned it the honor of being the World’s Best Consumer Bank for 2022.
The bank takes a proximity-based approach that balances its network of branches and ATMs—more than 6,000 and 15,000 in Spain, respectively—and its CaixaBankNow web and mobile app. Approximately 3 million customers log onto the Now platform daily, with 42% of digital users relying on mobile banking alone.
Despite the steady growth in digital banking, the bank is committed to not closing any of its branches in the 420 communities in which CaixaBank is the only bank present.
As an early adopter of biometrics, the bank has upgraded more than 1,200 ATMs on its network to support facial recognition based on data provided by its clients. Typical ATM transactions, such as cash withdrawals, can be accomplished without touching the ATM.
CaixaBank also rolled out ATM Now, a technology platform that offers a similar user experience as that provided by CaixaBankNow, which allows the bank to offer the same level of quality, image and service across all of its digital channels.
CEO – Gonzalo Gortázar
WORLD'S BEST EMERGING MARKETS BANK
HSBC, our winner of the World’s Best Emerging Markets Bank, made a significant pivot to focus on its core markets in 2021 and generated $18.9 billion of reported profit, an 87% increase over the previous year.
Partly responsible for the increase is the $6 billion investment the bank has made in its digitalization efforts, nearly a fifth of its operating budget. Close to 97% of HSBC’s transactions are now automated. Close to half of the bank’s retail clients are active on HSBC’s mobile banking app, which is available in 24 markets. Corporate clients made more than nine million payments via HSBCnet, a 58% increase over 2020, while commercial banking clients in 18 Asian markets increased their rate of digital transactions to 94%, up 9% from 2020
Among HSBC’s strategic acquisitions are its purchases of Axa Singapore and the outstanding portion of L&T Investment Management, India’s 12th largest mutual fund company. Additionally, the bank received regulatory approval to acquire the remaining stake of HSBC Life China.
In its fight to slow global climate change, the bank facilitated $82.6 billion in sustainable finance and investments last year, ranging from bringing sustainability-linked financial products to market to financing migrations away from carbon-based energy systems. Internally, HSBC reduced its greenhouse-gas emissions to 341,000 metric tons, a 50.3% decrease from its 2019 baseline.
Group CEO – Noel Quinn
WORLD'S BEST FRONTIER MARKETS BANK
With a history of close to 160 years and a footprint in more than 50 countries, Societe Generale (SocGen) earns the title of the World’s Best Frontier Markets Bank. In 2021, the bank saw its international retail banking and corporate banking net income rise to 5 billion euros (a 2.8% year-over-year increase) and approximately €2.2 billion (a 32% year-over-year increase), respectively.
The bank is collaborating with public and private entities and international partners to improve structured financial offerings related to Africa, including infrastructure finance, by 20% over the next three years. The bank is looking for new sources of financing in local currency and extending the maturity of those financings by raising credit while putting structures in place that free the financings from needing sovereign guarantees. SocGen also plans to increase credit outstanding to small and midsize enterprises (SMEs), which represent two-thirds of corporate clients in Africa, by 60% in the next five years. The bank also committed €300 billion to sustainable finance through 2025, while reducing its exposure to the oil and gas sector by 10% over the same period.
The bank has made substantial technology investments in its offerings and services. It has implemented artificial intelligence in production for more than 330 processes and moved 80% of its IT infrastructure to private and public clouds. As a result, more than 66% of its clients use digital channels while 94% of payments and money transfers take place over digital channels.
In North and Western Africa, SocGen has introduced various online payment offerings in Morocco, web-based banking in Algeria, and secure host-to-host connections via secure file transfer protocol (SFTP) in Algeria, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Guinea, Madagascar and Mozambique.
CEO – Frédéric Oudéa
BEST GLOBAL TRANSACTION BANK
With a global reach and a presence in 57 countries, BNP Paribas wins the title of World’s Best Transaction Bank. By implementing the most advanced technology, reengineering processes and participating in industry initiatives, the bank has increased its efficiency, improved the user experience and provided transparency for every link on the transaction chain.
The growing use of AI, digital ledger technology (DLT) and optical character recognition, along with a portfolio of published application programming interfaces (APIs), has put BNP Paribas ahead of its competition. The various new components of the bank’s Connexis Trade cash management platform can provide real-time bank notifications, manage discrepancies and bank fees, improve turnaround time and automate reporting via SwiftNet Trade.
BNP Paribas is a lead player in industrywide trade-digitalization initiatives, including DLT-based trade-document projects like Contour, Singapore’s National Trade Platform and open account and payment project Marco Polo.
WORLD'S BEST SUB-CUSTODIAN BANK
With the backing of one of the largest Canadian banks and global custodians, CIBC Mellon is our winner as the Best Sub-custodian Bank in North America and Canada due to its franchise leveraging BNY Mellon’s global network to provide a deep and comprehensive range of services.
The 50-50 joint venture between CIBC and BNY Mellon leads Canadian custody with more than $2 trillion in AUC and offering clients access to more than 100 global markets.
The advantage of tapping into BNY Mellon’s custody resources is substantial, particularly with the technology required to support systems that handle enormous volumes of transactions and data. The CIBC Mellon platform can continue developing and enhancing asset-servicing systems by bringing advanced BNY Mellon global technologies to Canada while adapting them to local requirements.
The bank is at the forefront of innovation in the digital assets custody sector, where CIBC Mellon services 19 of the 23 retail cryptocurrency offerings available in Canada and has been responding to increased interest from investors and industry participants in cryptocurrencies by serving as fund administrator for the world’s first retail bitcoin and ethereum exchange-traded funds.
The firm continues to collaborate with financial services industry stakeholders and leverages BNY Mellon’s digital asset unit to identify and develop potential solutions to support digital asset offerings. CIBC Mellon is highly engaged with regulators to drive the evolution of the custody sector and is an industry leader in initiatives to provide the most advanced settlement-processing services and trade communication. This includes enhancements with straight-through processing capabilities and the annual implementation of new Swift standards.
Robust governance of the firm’s platform and the franchise is critical. CIBC Mellon became the only Canadian custodian to achieve certification from the International Organization for Standardization for security and business continuity in 2021.
CEO – Steven Wolff
BEST BANK FOR SUSTAINABLE FINANCE
Societe Generale (SocGen) stands at the forefront of the sustainable finance movement, and its reach is truly global. In its native Europe, SocGen has led the charge into sustainability-linked bonds (SLBs), while in the Asia-Pacific (APAC) region, it has pioneered social bonds. In Africa, SocGen has been active in sustainable project finance in Benin, Angola and Senegal.
The pace hasn’t slackened in 2022. In March, the bank was an active bookrunner and joint sustainability structuring adviser for the first-ever sustainability-linked sovereign bond, the Republic of Chile’s $2 billion 20-year offering. The South American government will need to hit key performance indicators tied to reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and increasing the share of renewable energy in its national electric system. If it misses one target, the coupon rate it pays investors will rise 12.5 basis points. If it misses both targets, the step-up is 25 basis points.
SocGen received a top AAA rating in 2021 from environmental, social and governance (ESG) rating firm MSCI, placing it in the top 3% among the 190 banks in its peer group. It also made the top 1% among 4,944 companies rated by Moody’s ESG 2021 (formerly Vigeo Eiris).
BEST ISLAMIC FINANCIAL INSTITUTION
A flagship institution for the Islamic financing sector, Kuwait Finance House (KFH) wins the World’s Best Islamic Financial Institution award due to its strong 2021 operating performance while maintaining investments in innovative technology and launching new products and services. KFH provides services to customers in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), Asia and Europe through extensive distribution channels and has subsidiaries in Kuwait, Turkey, Bahrain, Malaysia and Germany. In 2021, customer numbers rose in all operating geographies worldwide.
KFH’s total assets stood at $72 billion at the end of 2021. Net profit was 68% higher year-on-year, at slightly more than $1 billion, with the return on average equity (ROAE) rising to 14%. KFH’s Islamic banking products and services span commercial, retail and corporate banking as well as real estate, trade finance and investments. KFH has placed significant emphasis on digital banking, and online banking transactions rose by a 25% in 2021. KFH successfully initiated a national payment system through a fully integrated application corresponding to the Swift global network.
KFH participated in major development projects in the GCC and international markets in fields such as infrastructure, energy, water, electricity, transportation, communications, housing and real estate development. In 2021, KFH Capital, the group’s investment arm, led the successful arrangement of many sovereign and corporate sukuk issuance deals, exceeding $15 billion.
Acting Group CEO – Abdulwahab Iesa Alrushood
BEST INVESTMENT BANK
Global investment banks were buoyed by a robust operating environment characterized by strong deal flow and surging financial markets in 2021, resulting in record fee income that rose 22% year over year to $159 billion, according to Refinitiv. “Investment banking had an extraordinary year, as clients remained incredibly active,” Goldman Sachs CEO David Solomon noted in the firm’s fourth-quarter 2021 earnings call.
Goldman Sachs is our 2022 choice for global overall Best Investment Bank, also taking a handful of other awards, particularly for its strength in M&A and the high-octane technology sector. Goldman takes the prize for Global Best Equity Bank, Best Investment Bank in North America and Best for Technology, among others.
The firm generated a record full-year revenue of $59 billion and a record net income of $21.6 billion, representing a 60% increase over its previous all-time highs. These results, Solomon said, “demonstrate that our client-oriented strategy is working.”
CEO – David Solomon
BEST CASH MANAGEMENT BANK
Forecasting provides an understanding of the opportunities and risks ahead—necessary insights for corporate treasuries to understand their businesses better while making them more effective and resilient. In addition, companies are increasingly relying on their banking partners’ expertise, services and technology to help them handle their cash holdings better.
“The new world of rising rates, tight supply chains and shifting trading corridors is creating new liquidity challenges,” says Stephen Randall, global head of Liquidity Management Services at Citi, the winner of our Best Bank for Cash Management and Best Bank for Liquidity Management awards. “Technology is a key enabler as companies strategically manage liquidity to fund rising working-capital funding requirements and to increase real-time business flows.”
Citi supports clients with advanced technology “to forecast their cash flows better, centralize and access liquidity across more markets than any other bank, distribute funding where needed on a 24/7 basis within our clients’ desired treasury controls, and centrally invest excess cash into an array of short-term investment instruments,” Randall adds.
Recent examples include Citi Real-Time Liquidity Sharing, which makes it easier for companies to put intraday liquidity to use in real time across their footprint and currencies. A partnership with Cashforce enables Citi clients to extract disparate business data across their enterprises, normalize their data and support agile decision-making using provided analytics tools.
CEO – Jane Fraser
BEST TRADE FINANCE PROVIDER BANK
Great breadth and depth in trade finance services and solutions helped BNP Paribas win this year’s Global Best Trade Finance Provider–Bank award. With a market-leading position in Europe and strong presence in the Asia-Pacific region and the Americas, BNP Paribas has over 350 trade finance experts working in 100 trade centers to assist clients with their trade finance operations.
Investment in innovation to improve the global trade process features strongly in the French bank’s digital transformation, as it seeks to empower clients in their own digitalization efforts. “The mission of BNP Paribas is to accompany its clients in their trade projects, notably on centralization,” remarks Jean-Francois Denis, head of Trade Solutions and Network Management at BNP Paribas.
Recent innovations include Connexis Guarantees, to enhance the issuance and reporting capabilities of business guarantees. Connexis LC Export offers a full digital overview of the life-cycle status of export letters of credit (LC). Optical character recognition (OCR), combined with machine learning and natural-language processing technologies, meanwhile, are being deployed by BNP Paribas to digitize paper documents and automatically extract data.
CEO – Jean-Laurent Bonnafé
BEST SUPPLY CHAIN FINANCE PROVIDER
Winning the global award for Best Supply Chain Finance Provider–Bank is not just about the number of markets served or the number of supply chain finance programs a provider supports. With one of the largest transaction banking networks, Citi boasts encouraging metrics on both counts. But more important, especially during a pandemic, is its ability to scale and implement its services quickly, as supply chains adjust to the new business norms.
Liquidity remains a significant portion of any SCF program, and Citi’s global reach permits it to source liquidity from its balance sheet or a pool of investors. A noteworthy addition to the bank’s SCF toolbox is its Dynamic Discounting offering, which it launched in Europe and the US. The service enables buyers to make cash more readily available to mid- to long-tail suppliers, where demand for financing is typically the greatest.
BEST FOREIGN EXCHANGE PROVIDER
“World presence, local specialization” is the model behind BBVA’s outstanding performance in the foreign exchange (FX) market of 2021. With global capabilities from all its locations, including trading and sales hubs on four continents, the Spanish giant generated an approximate $1.5 trillion in global FX volume for the year.
“BBVA is greatly honored to receive Global Finance’s Best Global Foreign Exchange Bank award for 2022,” says Pedro Alier, head of Strategy and Business Development, Rates and FX at BBVA. “This represents an incredible recognition of our decade-long continued effort investing in a technological and execution platform for our clients across segments and across geographies.”
As the world has reopened from the pandemic, supply chain disruptions have become ever more frequent, leading to increased currency-related risks. In such a volatile environment, BBVA’s award-winning global task force has played a critical role in helping corporates mitigate those risks worldwide, providing outstanding analytical and trading support.
Through its digital platform, BBVA allows customers to trade various products in all G-7, Scandinavian, CEE, Asian and Latin American currencies. Notably, the bank’s security has also been a cornerstone for its clients, maintaining a specific governance structure to ensure long-term compliance with the FX Global Code of Conduct.
“BBVA is an FX leader within its broad banking footprint in servicing its local clients, as well as bringing these core FX capabilities to global clients through its presence in the global financial hubs of Europe, the USA and Asia,” adds Alier.
CEO – Onur Genç
WORLD’S BEST PRIVATE BANK
One might add “transparent” to adjectives associated with J.P. Morgan Private Bank. One of the few global banks to have made private banking a reportable segment, it publishes financials quarterly for all to see. And those financials are impressive.
Private Bank global revenue was $3.76 billion in the first half of 2021, up 14% year over year (YOY). Assets under management (AUM) in the private banking client segment reached $752 billion as of June 30, 2021, up 19% YOY. The bank’s total AUM, including global institutional and global funds client segments, were $3 trillion, so private banking composed about a quarter of the institution’s total AUM.
The bank won private banking accolades in diverse geographies and client segments—in the US and beyond. This year, the firm takes home Global Finance’s Best Private Bank in the World award—which it also won for 2021 and 2020. The bank recognizes that many high-net-worth (HNW) clients now have environmental, social and governance (ESG)–related investing goals. As a result, it agreed in June to purchase OpenInvest, a values-based investing platform headquartered in San Francisco, which will allow the private bank to create more bespoke portfolios for its HNW clients.
“Clients are increasingly focused on understanding the environmental, social and governance impact of their portfolios and using that information to make investment decisions that better align with their goals,” said Mary Callahan Erdoes, CEO of J.P. Morgan Chase’s Asset and Wealth Management division, in a statement commenting on the acquisition.
CEO – Jamie Dimon
WORLD’S BEST SME BANK
Under the high-stress conditions of pandemic, Singapore-headquartered United Overseas Bank (UOB) stepped up, earning accolades as the Global Finance Best SME Bank in the World 2022 for its support of its SME clients during these tumultuous times.
With more than 80 years of history, UOB leveraged the lessons it learned from navigating the Asian financial crisis of 1997 and the global financial crisis of 2008-09. The bank began pandemic relief in February 2020 when it announced SG$ 3 billion ($2.2 billion) in relief assistance for its SME clients.
From December 2019 through June 2021, the bank also increased its gross loan portfolio to SG$299 billion from SG$269 billion, an 11% increase. It maintained a nonperforming loan ratio at 1.5%. Loans to SMEs represent 14% of the bank’s gross loan portfolio, while loans to large corporates and personal loans represent 53% and 33% of the portfolio, respectively.
Digital technology is key. “We have always seen digitalization as one of the key opportunities for growth,” says Group Commercial Banking head Eric Tham. “However, the pandemic accelerated our clients’ needs to digitalize operations and processes, especially in the last 18 months … The takeup of digitalization offerings from April 2020 to March 2021 jumped sixfold compared with a year earlier.”
UOB also offers SME clients digital tools to improve operational efficiency, such as the bank’s BizSmart program—a suite of cloud-based applications that handle back-office processes like payroll, accounting, inventory and resourcing. BizSmart also lets clients access a direct feed to their operating accounts, permitting reconciliation with a click of a mouse.
CEO – Wee Ee Cheong
BEST BANK IN AFRICA
Standard Bank overcame competition from its pan-African and domestic peers to emerge as the Best Bank in Africa. Emerging as the top bank on the continent comes against the backdrop of an impressive rebound for the banking powerhouse, which boasts operations in 20 countries, seven international markets and 15 million active clients.
In 2021, Standard Bank’s headline earnings bounced back by 57% from 2020 to $1.7 billion.
The bank saw its headline earnings in its home market rise by a staggering 172% to $878.5 million compared to 2020, while return-on-equity (ROE) recovered to 12.5% from 9%. Its regional operations remained resilient, posting $612.9 million in headline earnings. Notably, Southern and Central Africa remain the biggest markets in the region, while West Africa emerged as a prospective growth market. The region posted $217.9 million in headline earnings and 18.3% ROE.
The need to sustain growth across the board is important for Standard Bank. In August 2021, the bank unveiled its blueprint, dubbed “2025 Ambition,” which reorganized the business into three client segments to create a more integrated and seamless delivery of services, reduce time and costs and innovate more quickly and efficiently.
Group CEO – Sim Tshabalala
BEST BANK IN ASIA-PACIFIC
In 2021, Singapore’s DBS seized the opportunity presented by Covid-19 to enable its mission statement of embodying the “bank of the future.” Against the backdrop of the secular growth of Asia, the bank’s course has been framed by fundamental changes, such as the maturing of blockchain and artificial intelligence (AI); the rise of digital currencies; a sharpened focus on environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues and the climate crisis.
DBS leveraged its digital capabilities, diversified its franchise via new business launches and closed several inorganic transactions. The mix delivered stunning bottom-line results: The bank booked a record 6.8 billion Singapore dollars (about $5 billion) in profit for a steep 44% year-on-year surge. Wealth management, transaction banking and its treasury markets business drove much of the growth, according to CEO Piyush Gupta.
“DBS’ wealth management business grew from a mid-single-digit percent of the group’s total income to 20% today,” he notes. “In 2021, wealth management fee growth was 19%, which was off the charts. However, we’ve never grown less than 10% over the past five years,” Gupta says. “In transaction banking, cash management is up about 10 times in the past decade, after adjusting for interest rates. Trade finance, whether open-account trade or supply chain financing, has also been very robust,” he adds.
CEO – Piyush Gupta
BEST BANK IN CARIBBEAN
Banco Popular Dominicano takes the award for Best Bank in the Caribbean for providing its clients with reliability and innovation amid a challenging regional scenario. “We have been part of the solution during this period of high complexity, reaffirming our support for people, companies and entrepreneurs,” explains Christopher Paniagua, the bank’s CEO.
Indeed, Paniagua’s strategy seems to be paying off. Last year, the bank increased its market share in the Dominican Republic to 24.9%, with a 40% jump in earnings.
“Global Finance’s distinction recognizes our 58-year commitment to economic, social and human development in the Dominican Republic, reaffirming our positioning alongside the most vulnerable sectors, with socially responsible actions and a clear vision for sustainability,” says the CEO.
Banco Popular’s significant investments in digital inclusion also helped the country’s economy thrive by democratizing the country’s credit offerings. The bank created the Cuenta Digital Libre, an initiative that allows any Dominican citizen to settle transactions through Popular’s digital channels, regardless of their income.
Furthermore, the bank’s App Popular exceeded a million affiliated clients in 2021, growing 52% compared with the same period in 2020 and a milestone in a country with a population of over 11 million.
CEO – Cristopher Paniauga
BEST BANK IN CENTRAL AMERICA
Central American economies enjoyed a particularly prosperous 2021. Propelled by soaring remittances and rising commodity prices, the region’s economies fared, on average, better than neighboring South America. BAC Credomatic, the winner of our Best Bank in Central America award, thrived in this scenario and is the most profitable financial institution in the region.
The secret to the bank’s success is a solid and diversified pre-sence in all of the region’s leading economies, allowing BAC to offer its clients competitive advantages in both cross-border and domestic operations.
With $27 billion in total assets, $17.2 billion in total loans and $21 billion in total deposits as of September 2021, the bank vastly outperformed the competition in several of the region’s markets.
In a move to stay ahead of the Central American digital banking market, BAC Credomatic focused its innovation efforts on mobile payments, becoming one of the first banks in the region to incorporate ApplePay into its service portfolio.
BAC Credomatic also thrived in helping the region’s small and midsized enterprises (SMEs) through its new e-commerce tool, Click Purchase, allowing businesses to conduct online transactions safely through the bank’s system. Click Purchase generated $546 million and helped 745 SMEs in 2021.
CEO – Rodolfo Tabash Espinach
CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE
It has been a challenging time for banks across the globe—and for Central and Eastern Europe in particular. As much of the world economy was just emerging from the throes of the Covid-19, banks faced a difficult lending environment due to low interest rates while dealing with increased pressure on their margins.
The Russia-Ukraine war that started in late February has upended the economies of the region, paralyzed supply chains, created an unprecedented refugee crisis and raised the specter of a broader European conflict.
One of the institutions best positioned to weather the nosebleed levels of uncertainty in the region is OTP Bank, this year’s Central and Eastern Europe regional Best Bank winner. The bank is well diversified and deeply committed to continuing its growth across the region, with 16 million customers and services in 11 countries in the area.
The crown jewel in OTP’s portfolio is OTP Bank in Hungary, the country’s largest bank, which accounted for 43% of OTP Group’s adjusted profit in 2021 and 45% of assets. Some of the group’s other market-leading institutions include DSK Bank Bulgaria, the country’s biggest retail deposit bank and retail lender; OTP Bank Serbia, which is Serbia’s second-largest bank by assets; and CKB Montenegro, the biggest bank in Montenegro by assets.
CEO – Sandor Csanyi
Global Finance’s Best Bank in Latin America, Bradesco, displayed excellence in the region’s main market trends, combining long-recognized market knowledge with a future vision to guide its clients in a fast-changing global economy.
The bank’s recurring net income reached $5.6 billion for the year, a 36.8% year-on-year jump, surpassing pre-pandemic figures. As the region’s rising interest rates increased loan margins, the bank expanded its loan portfolio to $164.5 billion. Bradesco’s total assets grew 4.3%, amounting to roughly $374 million, while shareholders’ equity reached 148 billion Brazilian reals ($33.2 billion).
Bradesco was also a leader in digitalization among its peers. The Central Bank of Brazil calculates that the widespread usage of its digital payment system, Pix, took $570 million from the country’s banking sector in the year. Bradesco was the first in the region to incorporate Pix in its credit system, resulting in 56% growth in digital loans for individuals and 6% for companies.
The acquisition of digital bank Digio, completed in November 2021, and the release of its investment digital wallet, Bitz, in December further display the bank’s growing ambitions in the sector. And Bradesco excelled in ESG. In May 2021, the Brazilian-based giant decided it would direct roughly $50 billion to assets, sectors and activities with socio-environmental benefits by 2025.
CEO – Rodolfo Tabash Espinach
Delivering on critical strategic initiatives, Arab Bank, our Best Bank in the Middle East, is aggressively launching products and leveraging partnerships to serve its clients locally and regionally, and more broadly. Headquartered in Jordan, the bank’s digital innovation is impressive. Its neobank, Reflect, targets the under-35-year-olds by facilitating their daily lifestyles with a mobile-only banking experience.
Additional new service offerings include the rollout of a mortgage app that sports financial-planning and budgeting tools as well as a digital simulator that helps with retirement planning.
The bank also offers SMEs additional capabilities, with an online corporate platform that provides better cash management and payments while streamlining account openings through its digital onboarding platform, available in Palestine, Egypt, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
With regard to innovation, the bank’s AB Innovation Hub lets bank employees connect with fintechs for new ideas and product prototypes as well as learn about new technologies.
Arab Bank has an extensive franchise that covers 28 countries on five continents. Its extended footprint supports local SMEs and larger corporate clients that seek international growth opportunities and want a gateway to local markets. This is evident in the bank’s involvement in financing regional strategic infrastructure, industrial and urban development projects, including those for renewable energy.
CEO – Randa Sadik
The winner of our Best Bank in North America award, Bank of America (BofA), exhibited resiliency throughout 2021 as it assisted its clients with additional banking resources. In turn, customers responded with greater client engagement. Household adoption reached 70%, while digital sales grew to 49% of total sales. Clients embraced BofA’s virtual financial assistant, Erica, with interactions rising nearly four times and users increasing 43% during the year. Person-to-person transactions via Zelle rose 39%, and 86% of deposits are now conducted digitally.
The bank also made impressive progress in digitalization, as it received 512 patents covering bank and technology. Consequently, the bank ranks 86th in the top 300 list of US-granted patents, its highest ever.
The Life Plan platform, the bank’s most rapidly adopted digital feature, lets clients set and track financial goals and reached 5 million users last year. Meanwhile, BofA’s integrated its CashPro and FX platforms with its virtual account management system, which provides commercial clients with a more in-depth global view of their positions.
BofA’s Community Banking division operates through 1,200 financial centers in low- and moderate-income neighborhoods. The bank’s Community Homeownership Commitment of $15 billion by 2025 has deployed over $8 billion and assisted 32,000 families. The bank is the largest private investor in community-development financial institutions, and issued its second Equality Progress Sustainability bond, for $2 billion, to promote investment in underserved communities and low-carbon solutions.
CEO – Brian Moynihan
The past year saw some banking sector merger-and-acquisition activity as banks sorted out strategic priorities. That included the megamerger of CaixaBank and Bankia, with the resulting bank winning our Best Bank in Western Europe award. CaixaBank Group today serves 21 million customers through more than 5,300 branches in Spain and Portugal and exceeds €680 billion ($736 billion) in assets.
“We successfully completed the integration of CaixaBank and Bankia while at the same time concluding a very positive year, especially in the management of long-term savings,” said CEO Gonzalo Gortázar, at the time.
Core revenue came to €11.34 billion, and pro forma recurring profit for the year was €2.42 billion. Fee and commission income climbed to €4 billion, up 6.7%. CaixaBank ended 2021 with a long-term savings market share of 29.4% and an assets under management total of 48.2%, of which 16.5% was organic growth. The common equity Tier 1 (CET1) capital ratio rose to 13.2%, well over the goal of 11% to 11.5%.
CaixaBank continues to become a stronger player in digital banking, with the proportion of digital customers rising to 73.1%. In March, the bank announced a landmark partnership with BNP Paribas 3-Step IT, giving its professional clients access to innovative and sustainable IT solutions for the first time. Rated one of the world’s most sustainable banking groups in 2021, CaixaBank became one of the founding members of the Net Zero Banking Alliance.
CEO – Gonzalo Gortázar
This article appeared in issue October 2022
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