After a period of rapid expansion, the Latin American banking sector has experienced slower growth in recent years because of political upheaval and plummeting commodity prices. While the future looks uncertain, major banks are hoping they can return to the double-digit annual growth they saw a decade ago.

Today, the largest banks in Latin America are largely concentrated in three countries, according to the market intelligence firm S&P Global. Brazil claims the five biggest institutions by asset size, while three are headquartered in Mexico and two are based in Colombia. Here is the countdown.

Key Takeaways

  • The largest Latin American banks are in three countries.
  • Brazil has the five biggest institutions according to the size of assets.
  • The largest bank in Latin America is Banco DO Brasil, in Brazil.

1. Banco Do Brasil, Brazil ($451 Billion in Assets)

The government-controlled Banco do Brasil, with approximately $451 billion in assets, is Latin America’s largest bank. On top of lending to individuals and businesses, the bank also offers asset management services and foreign exchange capabilities. Based in Brasilia, the bank has a presence in more than 15 countries.

2. Itaú Unibanco Holding, Brazil ($410 Billion in Assets) 

The second-largest bank in Latin America, Itaú does business in 21 countries and operates more than 33,000 service points worldwide. The privately-owned company provides traditional corporate banking services as well as investment banking operations and merger and acquisition support.

3. Caixa Economica Federal, Brazil ($388 Billion in Assets)

Established in 1969, Caixa is a “private government entity” with a close relationship to the Brazilian Ministry of Finance. The bank plays a key role in executing income transfer programs and putting national housing policies into effect. It also manages the country’s main lottery programs.

4. Banco Bradesco, Brazil ($322 Billion in Assets) 

Headquartered in São Paulo, Banco Bradesco serves the individual as well as business clients. In addition to its banking products, it offers insurance services and retirement plans. Founded in 1943, Bradesco operates some 5,314 branches and owns 34,859 ATMs.

5. Banco Santander Brasil, Brazil ($200 Billion in Assets) 

Like several other Latin American banks, Santander Brasil is actually part of a larger European bank—in this case, Spain-based Santander. In addition to retail banking, credit cards, and home loans, the organization offers asset management and commercial banking services. 

6. BBVA Bancomer, Mexico ($107 Billion in Assets)

Mexico’s largest bank in terms of assets and deposits, Bancomer is a subsidiary of the Spanish company BBVA. Its revenue stream includes retail banking operations, stock brokerage services, insurance, and mutual fund management. BBVA Bancomer now has more than 11 million customers, 1,704 bank locations, and a network of 4,286 ATMs.

7. Banco Santander Mexico, Mexico ($67 Billion in Assets)

Santander Mexico provides a wide range of consumer products, including mortgages, credit cards, and personal loans. The bank, a division of Spain-headquartered Santander, also caters to business clients. Services include pension planning services, financing solutions, and foreign trade services. 

8. Citibanamex, Mexico ($65 Billion in Assets)

Citibanamex operates as a subsidiary of Citigroup since its purchase by that organization in 2001. Citibanamex offers traditional banking and credit services, as well as selling insurance and retirement products. It has more than 41,390 employees and is headquartered in Mexico City.        

9. Banorte, Mexico ($56 Billion in Assets)

Banorte was opportunistic in the wake of the Mexican financial crisis in the 1990s, acquiring multiple banks and building its presence throughout the country. Officially known as Grupo Financiero Banorte, the bank offers retail banking products as well as investment services, annuity and insurance products, retirement funds, and warehousing capabilities.   

10. Banco del Estado de Chile ($55 Billion in Assets)

Established by government decree in 1953, Banco del Estado de Chile is the only government-run bank in Chile. Though it serves all types of customers and businesses, it focuses on serving small and medium-sized enterprises and the unbanked. It is the third-largest bank in Chile, with 417 full-service branches, 107 express banking branches, 3,701 ATMs, and 25,400 CajaVecina contact points. As the only bank with a presence in every commune of Chile, it reaches 134 locations in which it is the only banking service.