The 10 Biggest Latin American Banks

Brazil dominates the list—half of the top 10 are headquartered there

The COVID-19 pandemic and the challenges that ensued hit every part of the world and sector of the global economy. Existing development issues in Latin America were deeply compounded when the virus swept through, leading to lower productivity, increased social inequity, institutional weakness, and questions about the future of environmental sustainability.

The region's banking sector has been among the fastest-growing of its kind in the world. Industry revenue increased 12% on a compound annual basis before the cost of risk between 2012 and 2017. But like their global counterparts, Latin American banks have experienced slower growth because of political upheaval and plummeting commodity prices. Though the future looks uncertain, major banks in Latin America (and the rest of the world) hope to return to the double-digit annual growth they saw a decade ago.

The largest banks in Latin America are largely concentrated in four countries, according to a report from S&P Global. Five of the biggest institutions by asset size are in Brazil. The others are headquartered in Mexico, Colombia, and Chile. In this article, we highlight some key information about each of these financial institutions, including total assets and a brief history.

Key Takeaways

  • Latin America has one of the world's fastest-growing banking sectors.
  • The region's banking industry has experienced a slowdown because of the COVID-19 pandemic and the ensuing slowdown.
  • The top 10 Latin American banks are in Brazil, Mexico, Colombia, and Chile.
  • The five biggest institutions are all in Brazil while three are in Mexico.
  • The largest bank in Latin America is Brazil's Itaú Unibanco Holding SA.

1. Itaú Unibanco Holding SA

  • Assets: $391.03 billion (Sept. 30, 2021)
  • Ticker: ITUB

The bank's name and logo were adopted in 1973 and remain the same. But its roots date back to the mid-1920s when João Moreira Salles started selling coffee under his business, Casa Moreira Salles. Since then, its focus shifted, expanding from financial services for coffee growers to the general public.

Itaú is one of Brazil's largest private sector banks with more than 90,000 employees and 60 million customers. The country has a presence in eight countries outside Brazil that spreads across retail, corporate, and investment banking. It also provides support for mergers and acquisitions (M&A).

2. Banco do Brasil SA

  • Assets: $334.74 billion (Sept. 30, 2021)
  • Ticker: BDORY

The second-largest bank in the region is a government-controlled institution. Banco do Brasil is based in Brasília. It is one of the world's oldest banks and Brazil's first financial institutions, having been founded in 1808. Employing more than 91,000 people, the bank has branches, offices, and subsidiaries in more than 20 different countries.

The bank offers retail and corporate services to individuals and businesses. It also has asset management services and foreign exchange capabilities. Some of its other business segments include:

  • Insurance
  • Pensions
  • Capitalizations
  • Payment means

3. Banco Bradesco SA

  • Assets: $319.18 billion (Sept. 30, 2021)
  • Ticker: BBD

Banco Bradesco's main goal was to attract small business owners, government workers, and the general population when it was founded in 1943. According to the company's website, it was among the first banks in the country to encourage the use of checks in its branches.

Headquartered in São Paulo, Banco Bradesco serves more than 70 million individual and corporate clients. clients as well as corporate ones. as well as business clients. It employs almost 90,000 people across 8,840 branches and express service points. In addition to its banking products, it offers insurance services and retirement plans.

4. Caixa Econômica Federal

  • Assets: approx $282.91 billion (June. 30, 2021)
  • Ticker: N/A

Established in 1861, 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.

5. Banco Santander (Brasil) SA

  • Assets: $180.98 billion (Sept. 30, 2021)
  • Ticker: BSBR

This institution was founded in 1857 and is part of a larger European financial institution based in Spain. Its main geographic focus is on Europe, North America, and South America as well as its digital bank for consumers. The bank entered the Brazilian market in 1957 and opened its first bank branch in 1980 in the country.

The company's Brazilian operations employ almost 53,000 in 3,614 branches. There are 53.4 million customers in Brazil. This is a small portion of the company's presence in South America, which also extends to Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, Colombia, and Peru.

Brazil's five biggest banks maintained their positions as the largest in Latin America in 2021. But with the Brazilian real losing 22.59% of its value against the U.S. dollar, the combined assets of the country's quintet slid by 8.9% to $1.484 trillion, year-over-year.

6. Grupo Financiero BBVA Bancomer SA de CV

  • Assets: approx $121.53 billion (Sept. 30, 2021)
  • Ticker: N/A

Mexico's largest bank in terms of assets, Bancomer, is a subsidiary of the Spanish company BBVA. It was founded in 1932 in Mexico City. At the time, it operated under the name Banco de Comercio. The Mexican government nationalized the company in 1982.

Its revenue stream includes retail banking operations, stock brokerage services, insurance, and mutual fund management. Groupo Financiero BBVA has more than 1,700 bank locations and a network of 13,400 automated teller machines (ATMs) in the country.

The world's largest banks are in China. The country's top four banks had a combined asset value of  $17.321 trillion.

7. Grupo Aval Acciones y Valores SA

  • Assets: $105.51 billion (Sept. 30, 2021)
  • Ticker: AVAL

Grupo Aval Acciones y Valores is Colombia's largest financial holding company. Its four traditional banks include:

  • Banco de Bogotá, the country's oldest commercial bank, offering various retail services and products
  • Banco de Occidente, which services corporate and government clients as well as retail customers
  • Banco Popular, which works with government entities
  • Banco AV Villas, which is a source of credit cards, loans, and mortgages

Founded in 1994, the holding company is controlled by Colombian magnate Luis Carlos Sarmiento. With a presence throughout Central America, it also engages in investment banking through subsidiary Corficolombiana and in private pension and severance management through Porvenir.

8. Grupo Financiero Banorte SAB de CV

  • Assets: $89.06 billion (March 31, 2021)
  • Ticker: GBOOF

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.

9. Banco Santander Mexico SA Institución de Banca Múltiple Grupo Financiero Santander Mexico

  • Assets: $83.45 billion (Sept. 30, 2021)
  • Ticker: BSMX

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, financing solutions, and foreign trade services.

10. Banco de Crédito e Inversiones

  • Assets: approx. $85.73 billion (Dec. 31, 2021)
  • Ticker: N/A

Banco de Crédito e Inversiones dates back to 1937 and is run by the third generation of its founding family, the Yarurs, which owns 63% of it. Founded to support small and medium enterprises, it now offers a variety of retail and commercial banking services, along with investment banking, private banking, and brokerage/money management services to institutional investors and high-net-worth individuals. It also owns the City National Bank of Florida.

Headquartered in Santiago, BCI has about 326 branches and 988 ATMs nationwide throughout Chile. It also has a presence in the U.S., Peru, Brazil, Mexico, and Hong Kong—the first Chilean bank to open there.

What Is the Largest Bank in Latin America?

With assets of $391.03 billion, Brazil's Itaú Unibanco Holding SA is the largest bank in Latin America.

What Is the Biggest Bank in Mexico?

Grupo Financiero BBVA Bancomer SA de CV is Mexico's biggest bank in terms of assets. The bank had approximately $121.53 billion in assets as of Sept. 30, 2021.

What Is the Largest Bank in the World?

According to S&P Global, China's Industrial & Commercial Bank of China is the largest bank in the world with $5.47 trillion in assets as of Sept. 30, 2021.

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