Brazilian banks top the regional table once again, led by Itaú Unibanco. Barbara Pianese reports.

Last year was a period of recovery for Latin America and the Caribbean from the economic collapse caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. Regional gross domestic product (GDP) saw a 6.9% rebound in 2021, after most economies contracted in 2020. The increase was driven by strong demand in key export destinations and high commodity prices, according to the World Bank.

As economic growth resumed, banks’ performance increased in tandem. Most banks in the region saw growth in Tier 1 capital and total assets, as well as a surge in pre-tax profits. The banks are well provisioned from 2020 and 2021, according to analysts.

Brazil numerically dominates the top 25 table, with eight banks. Its four biggest banks, Itaú Unibanco, Banco do Brasil, Banco Bradesco and Caixa Econômica Federal, maintain their positions as the largest lenders by Tier 1 capital in Latin America and the Caribbean. Mexico’s Banorte and Colombia’s Bancolombia follow, but are well behind.

The top 25 Latin America and Caribbean banks table sees a new entrant this year: Brazil’s Banco Inter, which offers digital banking services. It saw the greatest growth in Tier 1 capital in the region in 2021 – 140.9% – and jumped 297 places to reach position 672nd in the main ranking. As such, Banco Inter joins the 25 highest movers table in fourth spot.

Colombian mortgage specialist Banco Davivienda and Argentinian Banco de Galicia also performed well, each with core capital growing by almost 50%.

Banco de Reservas, Dominican Republic’s state-owned lender, had the highest return on capital (ROC) across Latin American and the Caribbean region, at 41.84%. The other banks in the top five for ROC post ratios from 24.11% to 28.39%.

Banco Inbursa, Mexico’s second-biggest lender, had the highest return on assets (ROA) across the region, at 3.48%, and is the top performer in the country. Banco Hipotecario del Uruguay, Chile’s Banco Falabella, Banco da Amazonia and Banco do Nordeste do Brasil also feature in the top five for ROA.

Despite the regional rebound, risks are looming. Latin America entered 2022 in an environment of slower economic activity with growth projections revised downward following the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Soaring global food and energy prices, and inflation across the region, are all adding up to create economic challenges. In 2022, average GDP growth for the six biggest countries in Latin America is expected to be 2%, according to S&P.

As a result of the softer economic performance and weaker credit growth, asset quality may weaken in 2022. Lenders will also face the possibility of higher non-performing loan ratios and more defaults.

However, higher interest rates are not expected to deteriorate banks’ margins and might help profitability and offset moderation in loan growth, according to analysts. Increases in provisions might not be necessary this year, which should help contribute to profitability.

Undoubtedly, Latin America’s outlook in 2022 will also be shaped by upcoming political events, including presidential elections in Brazil later this year.

Latin America and Caribbean top 25 banks ($m)

Country rank World rank Bank Country Tier 1
1 75 Itau Unibanco Holding Brazil 26,866
2 81 Banco do Brasil Brazil 25,332
3 86 Banco Bradesco Brazil 23,399
4 111 Caixa Economica Federal Brazil 16,925
5 176 Grupo Financiero Banorte Mexico 9,937
6 242 Bancolombia Colombia 6,382
7 248 Banco BTG Pactual Brazil 6,032
8 282 Banco de Chile Chile 5,251
9 300 Banco de Credito e Inversiones (BCI) Chile 4,993
10 312 Banco de Bogota Colombia 4,720
11 347 Banco Inbursa Mexico 3,971
12 354 BCP Peru 3,795
13 362 Banco Davivienda Colombia 3,728
14 382 Banco de la Nacion Argentina Argentina 3,529
15 411 Banco Safra Brazil 3,220
16 426 Banco General Panama 3,029
17 473 Banco de Galicia Argentina 2,615
18 475 Banco del Estado de Chile Chile 2,583
19 523 Banco Macro Argentina 2,135
20 588 Banco de la Republica Uruguay 1,776
21 612 Banco del Bajio Mexico 1,669
22 631 Interbank Peru 1,569
23 672 Banco Inter Brazil 1,426
24 685 Banco Provincia Argentina 1,377
25 698 Banrisul Brazil 1,320


Latin America and Caribbean highest movers

Country rank World rank Bank Country Tier 1 % ch. Tier 1 $M
1 672 Banco Inter Brazil 140.86 1,426
2 362 Banco Davivienda Colombia 49.46 3,728
3 473 Banco de Galicia Argentina 45.97 2,615
4 248 Banco BTG Pactual Brazil 42.01 6,032
5 941 Banco GNB Sudameris Colombia 39.9 663
6 914 Banco de la Ciudad de Buenos Aires Argentina 39.64 706
7 785 Banco Credicoop Argentina 36.93 1,028
8 523 Banco Macro Argentina 30.8 2,135
9 973 Banco de San Juan Argentina 30.64 602
10 685 Banco Provincia Argentina 26.71 1,377

Latin America and Caribbean top five ROC

Country rank World rank Bank Country Return on capital (%)
1 931 Banco de Reservas Dominican Republic 41.84
2 835 Banco Daycoval Brazil 28.39
3 248 Banco BTG Pactual Brazil 25.03
4 702 Banco Industrial Guatemala 24.13
5 312 Banco de Bogota Colombia 24.11


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