Banks come in all sizes, but the most powerful ones in Europe oversee trillions of euros in assets. The size of these financial institutions can be measured in different ways, such as based on assets, revenue, number of employees, number of branches or market capitalisation. Here’s a look at details on the five largest banks in Europe, ranked by assets, according to data from S&P Global Market Intelligence.
Europe’s largest bank is HSBC, which is based in the UK and was founded in 1865. It started out as Hongkong and Shanghai Bank. The headquarters moved to London in 1991, when it became HSBC Holdings plc. In 2020 the bank has over €2.1 trillion in assets and is in its seventh consecutive year of holding Europe’s top position. Globally it’s the seventh largest bank.
The company offers a wide range of financial products and services with markets aimed at both consumers and professional investors, serving an estimated 38 million customers. Its four main business sectors are commercial banking, global banking, retail banking and global private banking. According to the kreditai.info website, the company has about 3,900 offices spread around the planet and employs about 235,000 people. In 2019 the firm earned $8.7 billion in net income from $56.1 billion in revenue.
2. BNP Paribas
As Europe’s second largest bank, BNP Paribas is a French institution with assets valued at over €1.9 trillion. Worldwide it’s the eighth largest bank by assets with branches in 72 nations. The company, which has roots as a national bank going back to 1848, is the result of a 2000 merger between Banque Nationale de Paris (BNP) and Paribas. Its retail and investment divisions collectively serve about 30 million customers. In the United States it operates under the name Bank of the West.
BNP Paribas is actually the largest bank in the Eurozone, which consists of EU member states that base their primary currency on the euro. After the financial collapse of 2008 it emerged as one of the world’s five largest banks then in recent years was surpassed by larger players. In 2019 the company earned over €8 billion in net income from over €44 billion in revenue.
3. Credit Agricole
Another French firm, Credit Agricole is worth over €1.7 trillion in assets. The company was founded in 1894 and originally built its legacy on farming. By 1990 it shifted to a full-service banking operation and has since grown to employ over 142,000 people. Its various services include private banking and wealth management. The bank earned €4.3 billion in net income in 2019 from over €26 billion in revenue.
4. Deutsche Bank
Based in Germany, Deutsche Bank has nearly €1.5 trillion in assets. It’s listed on both the New York Stock Exchange and the Frankfurt Stock Exchange. Its global exposure reaches 58 nations with a focus on Europe, the Americas and Asia. In terms of global ranking based on assets, it sits just outside the top 20. Originally founded in 1870, the bank has grown to serve three major divisions, which are private and commercial banking, corporate and investment banking and asset management. In 2019 the company earned net income of over €5.2 billion from over €22.4 billion in revenue.
5. Banco Santander
Spain’s top bank rounds out Europe’s top five banks with total assets of over €1.4 trillion. On a global scale it ranks as the sixteenth biggest bank by assets. Established in 1857, the firm is based in Madrid with a major presence throughout Europe, the Americas and Asia. The company has multiple subsidiaries and employs over 196,000 workers. In 2019 it earned €8 billion in net income from €49 billion in revenue.
Looking at the Big Picture
The combination of Europe’s 50 largest banks by assets adds up to a value of over €30 trillion. Here are some of the other big banks in Europe that command asset value of or approaching €1 trillion:
- Barclays (UK)
- Societe Generale (France)
- Groupe BPCE (France)
- Lloyds Banking Group (UK)
- ING Groep (Netherlands)
- UniCredit (Italy)
- Royal Bank of Scotland (UK)
- Intesa Sanpaolo (Italy)
- Credit Mutuel Group (France)
- UBS Group (Switzerland)
There are various metrics for measuring a bank’s value. Asset value is commonly used by financial analysts when evaluating the largest institutions. When it comes to mergers and acquisitions the leading metric for valuation is market capitalisation.