The Amazing Shrinking Banks

Last year, I wrote quite a few posts on the subject of the credit crunch, aka the GFC (“Global Financial Crisis”) or GD2 (“Great Depression 2”). Whatever you want to call it, it has been unfolding for almost two years, and does not show any signs of letting up yet. The hardest hit to date have been banks. Many, including Northern Rock, Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers, Wachovia, Washington Mutual and every Icelandic bank have fallen along the way, via bankruptcy, merger or Government bailout. Others limp along with the odd adrenaline shot from Government to shake a little more life back into the patient.

Just one of these terminal patients is the Royal Bank of Scotland, whose market capitalization has fallen by 90% over the last two years, despite large injections of capital by the UK Government. The bank’s chief executive, Sir Fred Goodwin, has just resigned and was described by the Telegraph as “the most reviled man in Britain”. The once gargantuan Citigroup has shrunk even more and is now 92% smaller than it was in January 2007. In contrast, whether by good luck or good management, Australian banks have held up  well. Nab has been the worst affected, thanks in part to some pesky CDO write-downs, shrinking by 55%. Westpac has weathered the storm better than any major bank in the world, with a fall of only 17% in its market capitalisation. (Quick note to shareholders: your investment will have fallen by more than this since market capitalization equals share price times number of shares and like all banks, Westpac have raised additional capital during the course of the crisis and of course they have also bought St George).

The differing fortunes of the world’s banks in the face of the GFC has led to a significant re-ranking of the size scoreboard. The chart below was inspired by JP Morgan’s “pea chart”, which was doing the rounds last week*, and shows a ranking of 25 of the largest banks today and compares their current market capitalization to that of January 2007. How much has changed in two years! Once the largest bank in the world, Citigroup now languishes at number 20 in this list and is smaller than Westpac, CBA and nab. Even ANZ is now larger than Deustche Bank. How the mighty have fallen!
Bank Capitalisation (Update)
For those who are interested in poring over the gory details, I have posted a monthly history of the market capitalization of these and a number of other banks over on Swivel. All the figures have been converted to US dollars based on exchange rates at month end. All the data was sourced from Bloomberg. I have tried to include all the major publicly listed banks around the world (which excludes Rabobank, for example), but do let me know if I have missed any important ones.

* If you follow the link and look at the picture, please read the comment about the somewhat misleading use of circles in the chart!

UPDATE: Thanks to BC for pointing out that I completely forgot about Canadian banks! I have updated the chart, which now includes Royal Bank of Canada, Toronto-Dominion and Bank of Novia Scotia. These three have pushed ING, Deutsche Bank and Nordea from the top 25. The original chart is available here. If you know of any other big banks I have omitted, please let me know!

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8 thoughts on “The Amazing Shrinking Banks

  1. CV

    very insightful Mule. The aggregate market cap from your sample at Jan 2007 was $3.1 trillion. It is now $1.0 trillion. $2.1 trillion dollars has vanished in a very short space of time. At least Bernie Maddof’s ponzi scheme lasted the best part of 20 years and only cost the punters a lazy $50 billion.

  2. James

    it would be interesting to see how they have fared relative to the average market cap – JPM has clearly outperformed while Citi has underperformed

  3. James

    based on your swivel data the bank which has the best relative performance is…..Westpac! It relative share of market cap has increased by 155%. Citi is 3rd worse with a 76% decrease.

  4. BC

    I don’t see a single Canadian Bank here… currently listed as the strongest financial system in the world.


  5. stubbornmule Post author

    @BC: Good point! I’ll add them in. Of course, the Canadian banks have not completely escaped difficulties, as evidenced by TD pulling their business out of Australia a few weeks ago.

  6. stubbornmule Post author

    @BC: I’ve now updated the chart. As you can see, although RBC’s market cap. did fall 44% over the two years, it is still bigger than any of the Australian banks and TD, which fell 37%, is bigger than all but Westpac.

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