Global Finance announces this year’s safest banks by country.
As banking systems in most regions of world struggle with widespread economic stress and the lingering effects of the pandemic, our Safest Bank rankings recognize country winners that demonstrated resiliency in preserving their franchises to earn this important designation.
Our 2022 rankings include winners from 110 countries, with new winners emerging in 17 countries. From a regional perspective, greater turnover in our rankings occurred in Africa and Central and Eastern Europe compared to larger and more-established banking systems in Western Europe, Asia-Pacific and the Middle East. These year-over-year shifts are the result of several factors, involving not only changes in ratings but in the application of our ranking methodology.
New winners in Canada (Royal Bank of Canada), Denmark (Ringkjobing Landbobank), and Estonia (Luminor Bank) benefited from improved credit fundamentals and were recognized by Moody’s with rating upgrades.
Changes in these rankings also reflect downgrades and the impact of agencies discontinuing coverage due to deterioration in a bank’s credit profile, severe economic stress at the sovereign level, or geopolitical crises. Fitch was the last agency still looking at last year’s winner in Argentina, Banco de la Ciudad. When Fitch discontinued coverage, Banco Patagonia emerged as the new winner.
In response to geopolitical events—most particularly, European Union sanctions—Russia is also no longer covered and is excluded from our rankings. In the Asia-Pacific region, Sri Lanka also has no winner this year, as the credit profile of incumbent Bank of Ceylon deteriorated significantly.
In Namibia, Fitch downgraded the sovereign as well as the 2021 incumbent, Development Bank of Namibia, but not its larger competitor, First National Bank of Namibia. Thereby tied, the larger bank emerged on top. Interestingly, First National Bank of Namibia does not hold a Fitch rating and therefore was not impacted by this action.
Applying our methodology to determining country winners reveals many nuances that impact the scoring process. For example, when sovereign downgrades occur, the banking system usually follows. After the overall score, balance-sheet size is the most important component. It was the deciding factor for new winners United Bank for Africa (Ghana), Banco Union (Bolivia), Rawbank (DR Congo), CRDB Bank (Tanzania), Belarus Bank, Privatbank (Ukraine) and National Bank of Uzbekistan.
Other rating dynamics contribute to turnover among Country Winners. For example, holding an additional agency rating compared to your in-country peers generates a higher score, in many cases. That benefited Bank of Cyprus, as it carries an S&P rating while its closest peer, Hellenic Bank, does not. In Kenya, KCB Bank is a repeat winner, as holding two ratings allowed it to gain a small, but critical, scoring advantage over is single-rated peers.
Another important element of our methodology involves eligibility criteria to determine whether a bank can be in consideration for inclusion in our rankings. The Safest Banks by Country analysis considers an expanded group of the largest 1000 banks. We exclude banks that are wholly owned by their parent holding companies or banking groups. This resulted in new winners in Georgia, where TBC Bank replaces incumbent Halyk Bank Georgia, which is wholly owned by Halyk Bank of Kazakhstan, and also in Slovakia, where Tatra banka wins, as Vseabecna banka is now wholly owned by parent Intesa Sanpaolo.
Methodology: Behind the Rankings
To be eligible for inclusion among the Safest Banks By Country, entities must be among the world’s largest 1,000 banks by assets and carry at least one long-term foreign currency deposit or debt rating from one of the three major rating agencies. Wholly owned subsidiaries are ineligible. In order to identify the safest bank for each country, the criteria must be broader than for the global rankings, which require a position among the largest 500 banks and rating by at least two agencies.