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. Though the future looks uncertain, major banks are hoping they can return to the double-digit annual growth they saw a decade ago.

As of April 30, 2021, the largest banks in Latin America are largely concentrated in four countries, according to the market intelligence firm S&P Global. Brazil claims the five biggest institutions by asset size. The others are headquartered in Mexico, Colombia, and Chile. Here are our analyses of each one.

Key Takeaways

  • The largest Latin American banks are in four countries: Brazil, Mexico, Colombia, and Chile.
  • The five biggest institutions, according to asset size, are all in Brazil. Three of the top 10 banks are headquartered in Mexico.
  • The largest bank in Latin America is Brazil's Itaú Unibanco Holding SA.

1. Itaú Unibanco Holding SA

  • Assets: $369.53 billion (June 30, 2021)
  • Headquarters: Brazil
  • Ticker: ITUB

The largest bank in Latin America, Itaú does business in 21 countries and operates more than 31,000 service points worldwide. The privately owned company provides traditional corporate banking services as well as investment banking operations and merger and acquisition support.

2. Banco do Brasil SA

  • Assets: $329.38 billion (Sept. 30, 2020)
  • Headquarters: Brazil
  • Ticker: BDORY

The government-controlled Banco do Brasil is Latin America's second-largest bank. In addition to 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 23 countries.

3. Banco Bradesco SA

  • Assets: $295.14 billion (March 31, 2021)
  • Headquarters: Brazil
  • Ticker: BBD

Headquartered in São Paulo, Banco Bradesco serves 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 4,746 branches and owns 36,150 ATMs.

4. Caixa Econômica Federal

  • Assets: $277.44 billion (June 30, 2021)
  • Headquarters: Brazil
  • 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: $175.46 billion (June 30, 2021)
  • Headquarters: Brazil
  • Ticker: BSBR

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

In 2021, Brazil's five biggest banks maintained their positions as the largest in Latin America. 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: $125.28 billion (April 15, 2020)
  • Headquarters: Mexico
  • Ticker: N/A

Mexico's largest bank in terms of assets, 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 78.1 million customers, 7,744 bank locations, and a network of 13,165 ATMs.

7. Grupo Aval Acciones y Valores SA

  • Assets: $103.29 billion (June 30, 2021)
  • Headquarters: Colombia
  • 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), and Banco AV Villas (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)
  • Headquarters: Mexico
  • 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: $81.95 billion (July 30, 2021)
  • Headquarters: Mexico
  • 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: $74.13 billion (June 30, 2021)
  • Headquarters: Chile
  • Ticker: N/A

Banco de Crédito e Inversiones (BCI) dates back to 1937. It's 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 around 326 branches and 988 ATMs nationwide throughout Chile, along with a presence in the U.S., Peru, Brazil, Mexico, and Hong Kong (the first Chilean bank to open there).

The strong performance of the Chilean peso, fueled by rising copper prices, helped propel Chile's Banco de Crédito e Inversiones into the top 10 Latin American banks list in 2021.

What Is the Largest Bank in Latin America?

With assets of $369.53 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, at $125.28 billion as of April 15, 2020.

What Is the Largest Bank in the World?

According to S&P Global, with $5,302.91 billion in assets, the Industrial & Commercial Bank of China is the largest bank on Earth.