Unless you are an avid reader of the Financial Times or work on Wall Street, wading through the extremely dense and prolific amount of information regarding banking can be everything from tedious to utterly unbearable. Most check our bank accounts and credit card statements, our mortgages, car loans and investment portfolios and leave the rest either to advisors, or stay out of deeper levels of the financial world altogether. It’s a confusing world of numbers and terms, and especially after the financial crisis of 2008 many don’t trust anything the banking industry says anymore, if they even did in the first place. That said, banks make the world go round, because they control the money. Specifically the big banks make the world go round. While it may be daunting to research how much money a bank actually has, whether it’s cash, assets or equity, it is important to know who controls the world's finances.
There are many ways to value a banking institution; total assets, the sum total of everything a bank owns of value that can be converted into wealth, may be the easiest way as you simply find out what a bank is theoretically worth. The problem with weighing the value or size of a bank on assets is that U.S. banks do their accounting differently, thus creating discrepancies in total assets reported. Market capitalization, on the other hand, is an easier, more fluid way of calculating which the largest banks in the world are. A publicly traded company’s net worth is decided by its market capitalization; what the stock market deems the total equity value of the company to be worth. With this in mind, here are the ten largest banks in the world based on their market capitalization.
10 Commonwealth Bank of Australia -- Market Cap: $131.53 Billion
Founded in 1911, the Commonwealth Bank of Australia is a fully privatized multinational bank, and Australia’s second largest private company listed on the stock exchange. Specializing in a multitude of services, from consumer to mortgage and insurance, the bank is one of the four major banks in Australia. Though the bank doesn’t crack the top 20 in largest banks based on total assets, it sits at ten on this list with a market capitalization of $131.53 billion.
9 Bank of China -- Market Cap: $115.92 Billion
Technically the oldest bank in China, the Bank of China was established in 1912 in order to replace the Imperial Bank of China. With branches across the world the Bank of China, which reported a rise in profit of $26.4 billion in 2013, is the nation's fourth-biggest moneylender by market capitalization. Total revenue for the bank sits at $105 billion dollars, while its market capitalization sits at $115.92 billion in 2014.
8 Agricultural Bank of China -- Market Cap: $126.41 Billion
The Agricultural Bank of China is the country’s largest rural lender by assets. With over 320 million retail customers, nearly 3 million corporate clients, and 24,000 branches across the world, the Agricultural Bank of China is also one of the most powerful public companies in the world after commanding the world's largest IPO upon going public in 2010. Net profit rose about 15 percent in 2013, while the bank reported profit of $27.02 billion in 2013. Most importantly, the Agricultural Bank of China’s market capitalization is valued at $126.41 billion.
7 Citigroup -- Market Cap: $144.63 Billion
Manhattan, New York based Citigroup Inc. is the second American bank to make this list, and with good reason. After suffering catastrophic losses due to the 2008 financial crisis, Citigroup Inc. has recovered remarkably well, with 2013 figures estimating the company had amassed $420 billion in surplus cash and securities, and held a total equity of $204 billion dollars. It’s market capitalization reached $144.63 billion in 2014.
6 China Construction Bank -- Market Cap: $160.83 Billion
China Construction Bank is China's second largest moneylender. The bank’s net profits reached $34.98 billion last year, which was an increase of over 11 percent from 2012. After setting the record for China’s second highest IPO at $7.6 billion in 2007, the company’s market capitalization has grown rapidly. As of June 2014, the bank’s market capitalization hit $160.83 billion, making it the sixth largest bank in the world.
5 Bank of America -- Market Cap: $181.77 Billion
The second largest bank in the United States based on total assets, the Bank of America is also the 21st largest corporation in the country based on total revenue. Based out of Charlotte, North Carolina, the Bank of America has been embroiled in many controversies and lawsuits, most recently settling a $17 billion claim in August with the U.S. Justice Department related to dealings the bank had involving mortgages and home loans that helped precipitate the financial crisis of 2008. That said, the Bank of America still holds a market capitalization of $181.77 billion, making it one of the largest banks in the world.
4 HSBC Holdings -- Market Cap: $191.43 Billion
The first British bank to appear on this list, London based HSBC Holdings is a versatile banking and financial services company that is also the second largest bank in the world. With HSBC having over 125 million customers utilizing its nearly 7,000 branches spread out across all corners of the globe it's no wonder that by the end of 2013 the company reported assets worth $2.671 trillion. As of this year HSBC Holdings has a market capitalization of $191.43 billion.
3 Industrial and Commercial Bank of China -- Market Cap: $196.21 Billion
The last of China’s ‘big-four’ banks on this list, the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China is China's largest commercial bank with total assets amounting to $3.1 trillion in 2014. At one time holding the record for highest IPO, the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China seems poised to make gains on its assets as well, as in 2013 the bank posted a net profit of $42.3 billion, an increase of just over 10 percent from the previous year. The bank has also ranked number one in The Banker financial magazine's “Top 1000 World Banks Ranking” for the past two years, a testament to the strength of the institution. In 2014 the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China’s market capitalization is $196.21 billion.
2 JPMorgan Chase -- Market Cap: $229.90 Billion
JP Morgan Chase & Co is an American conglomerate born out of the 2000 merger between the Chase Manhattan Corporation and JP Morgan & Co. An international banking and financial services company, one side of the corporation, JPMorgan handles investments, asset and wealth management, among other services, while Chase handles credit cards and retail banking. Based on assets of $2,476.99 trillion alone JP Morgan Chase is by far the largest bank in the United States, and the sixth largest in the world. Based on JP Morgan Chase & Co’s market capitalization of $229.90 billion the bank is the second largest, both in the U.S. and in the world.
1 Wells Fargo -- Market Cap: $261.72 Billion
The monolithic Wells Fargo is a multinational banking, financial services and holding company with many branches, and assets spread out across the globe. The bank is only the fourth largest bank in the United States based on assets alone, not only trailing the other three major U.S. banks, but not even making the list of top 20 largest banks based on assets. Banking and numbers can often times be confusing or downright misleading however; due to the bank's market capitalization of $261.72 billion, Wells Fargo is not only the largest bank in America, but now the largest bank in the world as well.