China’s big four retain their leading positions in the Top 1000, though returns at the state-owned quartet are slowing. Meanwhile, the country’s digital banks are starting to make waves. 

In an unchanged result at the very top of the global bank ranking, Chinese banks once again occupy the first four places. This is the third consecutive year that the big four state-owned banks have taken the top spots in the world rankings.

As with the 2019 results, the Chinese banks have experienced a slower rate of growth – but it still far exceeds anything else seen in the top 10. Top-placed Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC) saw a 12.64% increase in Tier 1 capital, to $380.2bn, while the Agricultural Bank of China, which came in third place overall, saw Tier 1 capital increase by 14.29%. ICBC also took the top place for net interest income globally, followed by China Construction Bank (CCB) and Agricultural Bank of China.

The top 20 world banks list hosts three more Chinese banks, with Bank of Communications holding onto its 11th position from last year with an 11.36% increase in Tier 1 capital. Slightly further down the table, China Merchants Bank rises up two places to 17th place, and Shanghai Pudong Development Bank moves up four spots to enter the top 20.

There is the possibility that there will be a wave of Chinese banks entering the top 20 in next year’s results, with Industrial Bank, Postal Savings Bank of China, China Minsheng Bank and China Citic Bank all sitting between 21st and 24th place in this year’s ranking. However, the impact of coronavirus on the ability of these banks, and of their counterparts, to keep up their pace of growth remains to be seen.

Some of China’s smaller banks have been experiencing considerable rates of growth over the past year. Bank of Anshan had the biggest increase in Tier 1 capital in the 2020 global ranking, increasing by 179%. Digital-only MYBank, which appeared in the Top 1000 for the first time in the 2019 ranking, saw a 93% increase in Tier 1 capital over the course of 2019. The rise of digital banks in China is continuing apace, with the Tencent-owned WeBank entering the ranking for the first time at 540th.

Of the 10 largest banks in China, China Minsheng Bank has come out on top in the best-performing banks ranking. It outperformed its peers in terms of growth, operational efficiency, soundness and leverage, but it still needs to improve on its asset quality metrics.

China’s largest megabank ICBC is third in the best-performing table, showing its liquidity strength by coming in second only behind its closest competitor CCB. ICBC also fared well in soundness and return on risk.

In total, China lists 158 banks in this year’s Top 1000, an increase of 22 banks on the 2019 ranking.


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