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The World's Safest Bank

by Paul Toscano

Sources: Global Finance: World’s 50 Safest Banks, European Central Bank, Eurostat


The World's Safest Banks

In a world economy plagued by troubles in the global financial system, the words “safe” and “bank” are rarely put together. The shake up of banking systems around the world raises the question: "Which banks are the safe banks?"

For the past 17 years, Global Finance has compiled a list of the World’s 50 Safest Banks, and for the first time ever deemed it necessary to publish a mid-year list. The rankings were created through the comparison of long-term credit ratings (from Moody’s Standard & Poor’s and Fitch) and analysis of total assets owned by the 500 largest banks in the world.

For ease of comparison, we’ve listed the highest ranking bank in each country, as well as key statistics for each country’s banking system. The size of the banking system was determined by value of assets held by the country's banks. It may surprise you where the safest banks in the world are located... click ahead to find out!

Japan

Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ (#48 Worldwide)

(Banking Industry as of 3/09)

Size of Banking Industry: 191,495 billion (JPY)

Key interest rate: 0.1%

Number of commercial banks: 77

The Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ enters into the rankings as the 48th safest bank in the world, and safest in Japan, according to Global Finance. With 786 branches in Japan and 75 branches overseas, this bank has a market capitalization of 5,247 billion JPY.
Source: CNBC Asia, Bank of Japan

Kuwait

National Bank of Kuwait (#44 Worldwide)

(Banking Industry as of 3/09)

Size of Banking Industry: N/A

Key interest rate: 3.75%

Number of commercial banks: 17

The only Middle-Eastern bank represented on the Global Finance list is the National Bank of Kuwait (NBK). Getting high marks from the ratings agencies, NBK is one of the largest financial institutions in the country and boasts an unbroken record of rising profits since 1952, reaching $1 billion in 2007. NBK has a market capitalization of $9.1 billion.
Source: Central Bank of Kuwait

Switzerland

Credit Suisse Group (#40 Worldwide)

(Banking Industry as of 3/09)

Size of Banking Industry: 2,308 billion euros

Key interest rate: 0.5%

Number of commercial banks: 330

Other Banks in Top 50

UBS. The Swiss banking system is represented in Global Finance's rankings by two international players, Credit Suisse and UBS. Credit Suisse is ranked 40th safest worldwide by Global Finance, commanding a market cap of $25.9 billion.
Source: CNBC Europe, Swiss National Bank

Belgium

AXA Bank Europe (#39 Worldwide)

(Banking Industry as of 3/09)

Size of Banking Industry: 1,362 billion euros

Key interest rate: 2%

Number of commercial banks: 15

The relatively small Belgian banking system only contains 15 banks, but topping the safest banks in the country is AXA Bank Europe, ranked 39th on Global Finance’s list. Part of the international AXA group, AXA Bank Europe has a market capitalization of $14.9 billion.
Source: CNBC Europe, Belgian Central Bank

Portugal

Caixa Geral de Depositos (#36 Worldwide)

(Banking Industry as of 3/09)

Size of Banking Industry: 340 billion euros

Key interest rate: 2%

Number of commercial banks: 90

Portugal’s Caixa Geral de Depositos ranks 36th overall in Global Finance’s rankings. A government owned entity; it’s the only Portuguese bank on the list, and the largest in the country. Caixa Geral also conducts international operations in Africa, Europe, Asia and the Americas.
Source: CNBC Europe, Banco de Portugal

Norway

DnB NoR Bank (#34 Worldwide)

(Banking Industry as of 3/09)

Size of Banking Industry: 667.9 billion Norway Kroner (NOK)

Key interest rate: 3%

Number of commercial banks: 19

Norway also makes the list with DnB NoR Bank, at 34th overall. The company reports that the DnB NOR financial services group has total combined assets of 600 billion NOK. The company has a market cap of $12.3 billion.
Source: CNBC Europe, Norway's National Bank

Italy

Intesa Sanpaolo (#32 Worldwide)

(Banking Industry as of 3/09)

Size of Banking Industry: 2,422 billion euros

Key interest rate: 2%

Number of commercial banks: 67

Italy’s Intesa Sanpaolo is Italy’s only bank to make the list, ranked #32 overall. According to the company, it serves approximately 11.4 million customers in over 6,500 branches. Intesa Sanpaolo has a market cap of $26.6 billion.
ource: CNBC Europe, Bank of Italy

Finland

Pohjola Bank (#29 Worldwide)

(Banking Industry as of 3/09)

Size of Banking Industry: 98 billion euros

Key interest rate: 2%

Number of commercial banks: 121

Finland’s Pohjola Bank, ranked 29th overall, is the country’s only bank to make the list. Traded on the Helsinki Stock Exchange, the institution has a market cap of $844 million and assets of approximately 65.7 billion euros, according to the company.
Source: CNBC Europe, Bank of Finland

Singapore

DBS Bank (#28 Worldwide)

(Banking Industry as of 3/09)

Size of Banking Industry: $663,140 billion (S$)

Key interest rate: Pegged through Singapore Dollar

Number of commercial banks: 114

Other Banks in Top 50

United Overseas Bank

OCBC

Sweden

Nordea Bank (#22 Worldwide)

(Banking Industry as of 3/09)

Size of Banking Industry: 1,100 billion euros

Key interest rate: 2%

Number of commercial banks: 17

Other Banks in Top 50

Svenska Handelsbanken

Sweden has a relatively high proportion of it’s banks (2 out of 17, or approximately 12%) listed as among the 50 safest banks in the world, with Nordea Bank the country’s highest ranked at #22. Nordea Bank has a market capitalization of 117.33 billion KR.
Source: CNBC Europe, Sveriges Riksbank

United States

Wells Fargo (#21 Worldwide)

(Banking Industry*)

Size of Banking Industry: $11,123 billion

Key interest rate: 0.25%

Number of commercial banks: 1,716**

Other Banks in Top 50

US Bancorp

Bank of New York Mellon

JPMorgan Chase

In the Global Finance rankings of the world’s safest banks, the US banking industry only has 4 of the top 50. Wells Fargo is the most highly-ranked American bank, but only finds itself at #21 overall, with a market cap of $45.8 billion. US Bancorp finds itself at #26, while Bank of New York Mellon and JP Morgan are at #35 and #47, respectively.
Source: US Federal Reserve, 9/30/08

** Insured US-Chartered Commercial Banks that have consolidated assets of $300 million or more.

United Kingdom

HSBC (#19 Worldwide)

(Banking Industry as of 3/09)

Size of Banking Industry: 7,329 billion euros

Key interest rate: 1%

Number of commercial banks: 188

Other Banks in Top 50

Nationwide Building Society

One of the largest banking systems in the world, the UK only manages to get 2 out of the country’s 188 commercial banks on the top 50 list. Ranked 19th on the list, HSBC with a market cap of $68 billion is the country’s largest bank, but has also had its share of problems in early March, announcing that it will sell shares to raise approximately 12.5 billion pounds, according to Bloomberg.
Source: CNBC Europe, Bank of England

New Zealand

ASB Bank Limited (#18 Worldwide)

(Banking Industry as of 3/09)

Size of Banking Industry: $424 billion (NZD)

Key interest rate: 3.31%

Number of commercial banks: 9

New Zealand also manages to make the list, with ASB Bank Limited ranked at #18. This New Zealand bank is part of the ASB group, which composed of 7 banking and financial firms, and is the country’s only bank on the list.
Source: Reserve Bank of New Zealand

Australia

National Australia Bank (#11 Worldwide)

(Banking Industry as of 3/09)

Size of Banking Industry: $2,674 billion AU

Key interest rate: 3.25%

Number of commercial banks: 15

Other Banks in Top 50

Commonwealth Bank of Australia

Australia & New Zealand Banking Group

Westpac Banking Corporation

Down under, the safest bank on the rankings is the National Bank of Australia, with a market cap of 34.28 billion AU. Three other banks in the country also make the list.
Source: Reserve Bank of Australia

Canada

Royal Bank of Canada (#10 Worldwide)

(Banking Industry as of 3/09)

Size of Banking Industry: $1,700 billion (Canadian)

Key interest rate: 0.5%

Number of commercial banks: 21

Other Banks in Top 50

Toronto-Dominion Bank

Scotia Bank

Bank of Montreal

CIBC

Canada’s banks make up over half of the North American institutions listed on the rankings from Global Finance. Topping the Canadian banks is the Royal Bank of Canada, the country’s biggest bank with a market cap of $30.96 billion.
Source: Bank of Canada

Spain

Banco Santander (#9 Worldwide)

(Banking Industry as of 3/09)

Size of Banking Industry: 3,008 billion euros

Key interest rate: 2%

Number of commercial banks: 284

Other Banks in Top 50

Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria

Banco Espanol de Credito S.A.

La Caixa

Banco Popular Espanol

With five banks listed on this year’s list, Spain has a wealth of safe banks compared to many other countries. With a market capitalization of 46.17 billion, Banco Santander finds itself ranked #9 worldwide.
Source: CNBC Europe, Bank of Spain

The Netherlands

Bank Nederlandse Gemeenten (#3 Worldwide)

(Banking Industry as of 3/09)

Size of Banking Industry: 1,807 billion euros

Key interest rate: 2%

Number of commercial banks: 99

Other Banks in Top 50

Rabobank

The Bank Nederlandse Gemeenten (BNG) is

one of the two Dutch banks finding itself in the top 5 safest banks in the world. A government-owned bank (50% by the Dutch government and 50% by municipalities), BNG is neck-and-neck in both domestic and worldwide rankings with the other Dutch firm Rabobank, ranked #5 by Global Finance.
Source: CNBC Europe, De Nederlandsche Bank

France

Caisse des Depots et Consignations (#2 Worldwide)

(Banking Industry as of 3/09)

Size of Banking Industry: 5,876 billion euros

Key interest rate: 2%

Number of commercial banks: 17

Other Banks in Top 50

BNP Paribas

Credit Agricole

Societe Generale

Banque Federative du Credit Mutuel

Credit Industriel et Commercial

France is home to the World’s second-safest bank, according to Global Finance, and with only 17 commercial banks based in the country, approximately 35% of the country’s banks are on the list. Caisse des Depots et Consignations (CDC) is a public financial institution that performs public-interest missions on behalf of France’s central, regional and local governments.
Source: CNBC Europe, Banque de France

Germany

KfW (#1 Worldwide)

(Banking Industry as of 3/09)

Size of Banking Industry: 6,625 billion euros

Key interest rate: 2%

Number of commercial banks: 1,700

Other Banks in Top 50

Landwirtschaftllche Rentenbank

Landeskreditbank Baden-Wuerttemberg-Foerderbank

NRW. Bank

Deutsche Bank

Landesbank Baden-Wuerttemberg

Source: CNBC Europe, Deutsche Bundesbank

With six banks listed on Global Finance’s World’s 50 Safest Banks, Germany places four banks in the Top Ten, which includes KfW at #1 overall. KfW is government owned and has been in operation for over 60 years, since 1948.

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