Home AWARDS The International Banker 2024 North & South American Awards Winners

The International Banker 2024 North & South American Awards Winners

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The Federal Reserve System’s January 2024 “Senior Loan Officer Opinion Survey on Bank Lending Practices” (SLOOS) found that weaker demand was recorded for commercial and industrial (C&I) loans to firms of all sizes over the fourth quarter. “Regarding demand for C&I loans over the fourth quarter, significant net shares of banks reported weaker demand for loans from firms of all sizes,” the survey discovered. It also recorded a “significant” net share of banks reporting decreased inquiries from potential borrowers regarding the availability and terms of new credit lines or increases in existing lines.

“Of the banks reporting weaker demand for C&I loans, major net shares cited decreased customer investment in plant or equipment and decreased financing needs for inventories, accounts receivable, and mergers or acquisitions as important reasons for the weaker loan demand,” the January SLOOS also noted. According to ING, this suggests US businesses “remain very cautious and are reluctant to put money to work right now”.

On the supply side, meanwhile, banks continued to tighten their lending standards during the fourth quarter, although there was a lower net share of banks reporting tightening lending standards than was recorded in the third quarter across all loan categories. “Regarding loans to businesses, survey respondents, on balance, reported tighter standards and weaker demand for commercial and industrial (C&I) loans to firms of all sizes over the fourth quarter,” the survey also stated. “Furthermore, banks reported tighter standards and weaker demand for all commercial real estate (CRE) loan categories.”

2023 ended on a somewhat subdued note for US banks as earnings for the fourth quarter underwhelmed for most major lenders. JPMorgan Chase still managed to report net income of $49.6 billion for the quarter—the highest-ever quarterly figure for any US bank—although top-line and bottom-line figures came in under analysts’ expectations.

Among the most significant factors was the slew of one-off charges banks faced during the quarter, including fees to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), which spent tens of billions of dollars to resolve the US banking crisis that claimed the lives of major lenders such as Silicon Valley Bank (SVB) and Signature Bank. JPMorgan doled out $2.9 billion to replenish the FDIC’s insurance fund, while Bank of America (BofA) and Wells Fargo reported charges of $2.1 billion and $1.9 billion, respectively. The country’s six biggest banks’ fees to the FDIC amounted to a whopping $9.4 billion in total.

Citi made a $1.7-billion payment to the FDIC and disbursed $780 million in charges tied to severance costs. The US’ third-biggest lender also reported a net loss of $1.8 billion, while its income of $9.2 billion was 38 percent down from a year ago as its exposure to Argentina’s debt market proved particularly costly. “The fourth quarter was very clearly disappointing,” according to Citi’s chief executive officer, Jane Fraser. The lender is set to undergo major restructuring over the coming year, shrinking its global workforce by 20,000 by 2026, or around 8 percent of its total staff.

Covering the three-month period to the end of October, the latest quarterly-earnings round demonstrated the challenging year faced by Canadian lenders as falling profits and rising bad loans saw thousands of jobs at the country’s six biggest lenders axed. Despite enjoying higher net interest margins (NIMs), moreover, demands for residential mortgages, auto loans and commercial real-estate loans all suffered in the face of sharply rising borrowing costs.

Scotiabank (Bank of Nova Scotia), for example, earned $1.4 billion, or $1.02 per share, during the quarter, significantly lower than the $1.63 per share earned in the same quarter a year earlier. The bank also took $590 million in charges (related to its cutting of 2,700 jobs) and faced a write-down on its investment in Chinese lender Bank of Xi’an Co.

For TD Canada Trust, a rise in provisions for credit losses (PCLs) and weaker US-based business at its TD Bank (Toronto-Dominion Bank), meanwhile, led to an earnings miss.

On a more positive note, Canada’s biggest lender, Royal Bank of Canada (RBC), reported adjusted earnings of $2.78 per share, which comfortably beat expectations of $2.62, as strong capital-market revenue and lower taxes offset rising loan loss provisions (LLPs). “In a year defined by uncertainty, RBC served as a stabilizing force for our clients, communities, colleagues and shareholders,” RBC’s chief executive officer, David I. McKay, stated. “Our overall performance in 2023 exemplifies our standing as an all-weather bank.”

National Bank of Canada’s (National Bank’s) fourth-quarter profit also beat analyst estimates after strong capital-market revenues and lower-than-expected loan loss provisions helped the lender earn $768 million, or $2.14 per share, during the three-month period. This was higher than the $738 million, or $2.08 per share, posted in the same quarter a year earlier. “Through strong execution, organic growth, and tight expense management, we delivered solid financial results, generated an excellent return on equity, and maintained robust capital levels in 2023,” National Bank’s chief executive officer, Laurent Ferreira, explained in a statement.

In December, the Mexican central bank, Banxico (Bank of Mexico), stated that the country’s financial system remained resilient despite a complex global outlook. The bank’s report followed stress tests conducted on banking-sector solvency and liquidity. “The banking system’s strong liquidity position would allow it to cope with episodes of stress greater than those experienced in the past,” Banxico stated in the report, adding that the “financial position of households” was slightly less than in the previous edition of the report six months earlier.

It also noted a slowdown in credit growth for the non-financial private sector, although it remained significant, while consumer banks’ credit delinquency rates remained low despite ticking higher during the six months. Risks to financial stability included the potential for a further global economic slowdown, as well as possible surprise rating downgrades for Mexico’s sovereign debt and/or state oil firm Pemex. Banxico also highlighted cyberattack risks emerging from the wars in Ukraine and the Middle East as potential threats to the financial system, adding that its cyber-alert level was maintained at “yellow”.

With Mexico’s National Banking and Securities Commission (CNBV) having approved the establishment of three new digital banks in 2024, late January saw Grupo Financiero Banorte, one of Mexico’s largest financial companies, launch the country’s first fully digital bank. Named bineo, it is the first digital bank to own a multiple banking institution licence authorised by the National Banking and Securities Commission, earning a favourable opinion from Banxico and an endorsement from the Mexican Institute for the Protection of Bank Savings (known in Spanish as Instituto para la Protección al Ahorro Bancario, or IPAB), which, unlike other digital options in the market, guarantees the protection of users’ savings up to 400,000 UDIs (unidad de inversions—investment units), equivalent to more than three million pesos.

Easing inflation expectations and further interest cuts should help Brazilian banks manage their asset quality this year, according to Fitch Ratings. “After a large corporate default in early 2023 (Americanas SA), default rates remain more sensitive in the retail and SME segments while still below historical levels for corporates,” the rating firm noted in its “Large Brazilian Banks—Peer Review 2023”, published on January 29. “However, further easing of inflation and interest rate cuts should support borrower affordability and help banks manage their asset-quality. These banks can still absorb additional moderate asset-quality shocks, given their robust pre-impairment profitability and adequate solvency metrics.”

That said, Fitch also noted that despite these early signs of asset-quality stabilisation among large Brazilian lenders, profitability would see continued revenue headwinds in the near term. “Pressure on net interest income from lower new loan growth will continue to weigh on net interest margins,” Fitch added. “Further interest rate cuts in 2024 could provide upside to net margins through funding repricing, although only moderately, as this will be balanced against a lower-yielding loan mix.”

Banco Central do Brasil, meanwhile, lowered its benchmark interest rate by 50 basis points on January 31 to 11.25 percent, again citing easing inflation expectations as the key factor underpinning the bank’s fifth consecutive rate cut. “The global environment remains volatile, with a debate about the beginning of the easing cycle in major economies and signs of lower core inflation, despite remaining at high levels in many countries,” the bank stated. “Regarding the domestic scenario, the set of indicators on economic activity remains consistent with the scenario of deceleration expected by Copom [Brazil’s Monetary Policy Committee]. Headline consumer inflation, as expected, remains in a path of disinflation, and various measures of underlying inflation are closer to the inflation target in recent releases.”

Chile’s central bank (Banco Central de Chile) lowered its benchmark interest rate by a full 100 basis points in January to 7.25 percent, as the annual rate of inflation continued its declining trend, from 4.8 percent in November to 3.9 percent in December, while two-year inflation expectations remained at 3 percent. The bank has lowered rates by a hefty 4 percent since July, as its 3-percent inflation target appears increasingly within its grasp. “The Board considers that the convergence of inflation to the 3 percent target would materialize sooner than expected,” policymakers stated when announcing the January rate-cut decision, adding that the key interest rate will “reach its neutral level during the second part of 2024”.

The Matte family seeks to expand its empire in Chile with a greater presence in the country’s financial-services industry. The powerful billionaire clan already has significant holdings in Chile’s forestry, power generation and telecommunications industries and is now looking to boost its influence in banking through a takeover by its own finance firm, BICECORP, of a local rival, Santiago-based Grupo Security, with shareholders of both parties having signed an agreement to integrate their businesses and subsidiaries.

“The deal—subject to approval from the Financial Market Commission (CMF) and the National Economic Prosecutor’s Office (FNE)—values Grupo Security at approximately US$1.25 billion and Bicecorp at US$1.88 billion. It involves a tender offer and a share swap, allowing all Grupo Security shareholders to become part of BICECORP,” Grupo Security’s January 24 press release about the deal stated. “The merger of Grupo Security and BICECORP would create one of Chile’s largest financial groups with an estimated economic value of US$3.13 billion, total assets of US$37 billion, more than 2.4 million customers, 6,250 employees and 83 branches nationwide, according to figures from last September.”

According to a recent report from the central bank (Banco Central de la República Argentina, BCRA), Argentina’s financial system is approaching complete coverage of the country’s population. Thanks largely to the rapid fintech (financial technology) sector expansion of recent years, long-running challenges to financial inclusion have been addressed throughout much of Latin America, the report noted, especially in those countries with large segments of their population lacking access to traditional banking services.

In Argentina’s case, the central bank recently announced that the support provided by fintech companies has been crucial in positioning the financial system on the verge of achieving full coverage for the adult population. Indeed, Argentinians with bank accounts now total 35.7 million as of the first half of 2023, meaning that more than 99 percent of those aged 18 and above are covered. This starkly contrasts with 2017, when more than half of the adult population in Argentina lacked access to bank accounts, the World Bank Group’s Global Findex Database reported.

The central bank may not be around for much longer, however—that is, if Javier Gerardo Milei gets his way. The new president reiterated on a radio show in January that the 86-year-old financial institution would be shut down “sooner or later”. Some have doubted whether Milei will follow through on his election campaign pledge to close down the central bank after he eased up on his more extreme rhetoric after coming to power in November. The decision to appoint members of former President Mauricio Macri’s team has been viewed as a sign of moderation.

Minister of Economy Luis Andrés Caputo confirmed in December that the “rallying flags” of dollarisation and the central bank’s closure “haven’t been set aside”. That said, Milei’s selection to lead the institution, Santiago Bausili, said that the monetary authority would not be shut down while he was in charge. Should Milei follow through on his promise, however, Argentina would join just a dozen or so countries in the world—mostly small nations that function as tax havens—that don’t have formal central banks, including Panama, Kiribati, Tuvalu, Micronesia, Andorra, Marshall Islands, Monaco, Nauru and Palau.

 

 >>> NORTH AMERICA AWARD WINNERS  

 

BANKING CEO OF THE YEAR
North America
Mr. Jamie Dimon

JPMorgan Chase & Co (United States)

**********

BEST CUSTOMER SERVICE
PROVIDER OF THE YEAR

North America
Discover Bank (United States)

**********

Best Banking Group Canada
BMO Financial Group

Best Banking Group Mexico
Grupo Financiero Banorte

Best Investment Bank Of The Year Canada
RBC Capital Markets

Best Investment Bank Of The Year Mexico
BBVA

Best Investment Bank Of The Year United States
JPMorgan Chase & Co.

Best Commercial Bank Of The Year Canada
BMO

Best Commercial Bank Of The Year Guatemala
Banco Industrial

Best Commercial Bank Of The Year Mexico
Banorte

Best Commercial Bank Of The Year Trinidad and Tobago
Republic Bank

Best Commercial Bank Of The Year United States
U.S. Bank

Best Private Bank Of The Year Canada
RBC Wealth Management

Best Private Bank Of The Year Mexico
Santander Private Banking

Best Private Bank Of The Year United States
J.P. Morgan Private Bank

Best Innovation In Retail Banking Barbados
Scotiabank

Best Innovation In Retail Banking Canada
TD Bank

Best Innovation In Retail Banking Costa Rica
BAC

Best Innovation In Retail Banking Dominican Republic
BanReservas

Best Innovation In Retail Banking Guatemala
Banco Industrial

Best Innovation In Retail Banking Mexico
BBVA Mexico

Best Innovation In Retail Banking Panama
Mercantil Banco

Best Innovation In Retail Banking United States
Capital One

Best Mortgage Lender Canada
Scotiabank

Best Mortgage Lender Mexico
Banorte

 

 

 

 >>>SOUTH AMERICA AWARD WINNERS  

 

BANKING CEO OF THE YEAR
South America
Mr. Juan Carlos Mora

Bancolombia (Colombia)

**********

BEST CUSTOMER SERVICE
PROVIDER OF THE YEAR

South America
BBVA Peru

**********

Best Banking Group Of The Year Peru
Credicorp

Best Commercial Bank Of The Year Bolivia
Banco Mercantil Santa Cruz

Best Commercial Bank Of The Year Chile
BancoEstado

Best Commercial Bank Of The Year Colombia
Bancolombia

Best Commercial Bank Of The Year Ecuador
Banco Pichincha

Best Commercial Bank Of The Year Paraguay
Sudameris

Best Commercial Bank Of The Year Peru
Banco de Credito del Peru (BCP)

Best Commercial Bank Of The Year Uruguay
Banco República (BROU)

Best Private Bank Of The Year Brazil
Santander Private Banking

Best Private Bank Of The Year Chile
LarrainVial

Best Private Bank Of The Year Peru
BBVA

Best Innovation In Retail Banking Bolivia
Banco Mercantil Santa Cruz

Best Innovation In Retail Banking Brazil
BRB – Banco de Brasília

Best Innovation In Retail Banking Chile
BancoEstado

Best Innovation In Retail Banking Colombia
Bancolombia

Best Innovation In Retail Banking Ecuador
Banco Pichincha

Best Innovation In Retail Banking Guyana
Demerara Bank

Best Innovation In Retail Banking Paraguay
Banco Itaú

Best Innovation In Retail Banking Peru
BBVA

Best Innovation In Retail Banking Uruguay
Banco República (BROU)

Best Mortgage Lender Brazil
BRB – Banco de Brasília

Best Mortgage Lender Colombia
Bancolombia

 

 

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