Big Four (banking)

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The Big Four (or Big 4) is the colloquial name given to the four main banks in several countries where the banking industry is dominated by just four institutions and where the phrase has thus gained currency.[1] Some countries include more or less institutions in such rankings, leading to other names such as Big Three, Big Five, or Big Six.

International use[edit]

Internationally, the term "Big Four Banks" has traditionally referred to the following central banks:[2][3]

Australia/New Zealand[edit]

In Australia, the "big four banks" refers to the four largest banks[4] by market share, who between them hold 80% of the home loan markets in the country. In 2012, their combined total asset is A$2.66 trillion, which is about 200% of Australian GDP in 2011. In order of total assets, these are:

A longstanding policy of the federal government in Australia has been to maintain this status quo, called the "four pillars policy". The policy has been maintained through the Global Recession of 2008–09, as Westpac acquired St.George Bank and the Commonwealth Bank acquired Bankwest, reinforcing the special status of the "big four".

Being New Zealand's closest neighbour, with very close ties culturally and economically, has helped Australia dominate the banking sector there. Often referred to collectively as the 'big banks'[6][7][8] or the 'big Aussie banks', the "Big Four" Australian banks also dominate the New Zealand banking sector in the form of:

Together they hold over 90% of gross loans and advances in New Zealand[9] as well as close to 90% of all mortgages.[10]

These four subsidiaries are massively profitable and in some cases even outperform the Australian parent companies.[11] The extent to which they dominate the banking sector can be seen in profits: In the 2012/2013 financial year, the largest of the Big Banks, ANZ New Zealand, made a profit of NZ$1.37 billion. The smallest, BNZ, made a profit of NZ$695 million.[6] State-owned Kiwibank, community trust-owned TSB Bank, SBS Bank (formerly Southland Building Society) and Heartland Bank, the next four largest banks by profit, made NZ$97 million,[12] NZ$73.5 million,[13] NZ$14 million[14] and NZ$7 million (albeit with an underlying result of about NZ$30 million) respectively.[15] In other words, the profit of New Zealand's next four largest banks (after the Big Four) is equal to less than 30% of the smallest of the Big Four, BNZ.


The "Big Four" banks of Austria are:[16]

*separate legal entities operating under a common brand


The big four banks of Belgium[17] are a result of national and international mergers in the early 90s.


In Brazil, the "big four", according to Exame Magazine[18] in 2017:

Name Description Year Net Assets
Itaú Unibanco Largest Private bank 2017 US$452.6 billion
Banco do Brasil Largest State Owned Bank 2017 US$430.2 billion
Caixa Econômica Federal State Owned Bank 2017 US$406.0 billion
Banco Bradesco Private Bank 2017 US$391.6 billion


There are five banks dominating the Canadian banking sector, hence the "Big Five"[19][20] is used instead of "Big Four".


During the 1920s, the term "big four" applied to the Four Northern Banks of the Republic of China (i.e., the four most capitalized commercial banks in Northern China).[21] These were the Yien Yieh Commercial Bank, the Kincheng Banking Corporation, the Continental Bank and The China & South Sea Bank. They were contrasted with the Three Southern Banks of Southern China.

By 1949, the "big four" banks were the Bank of China, the Bank of Communications, the Central Bank of China and the Farmers Bank of China. All four were state-owned. Together with Central Trust of China, Postal Savings and Remittance Bureau of China, and Central Cooperative Treasury of China, these banks were called the "four banks, two bureaus, one treasury" or "四行两局一库".[22]

In the People's Republic of China, the Big Five Banks ("五大银行") are:[23]

  1. Industrial and Commercial Bank of China
  2. Bank of China
  3. China Construction Bank
  4. Agricultural Bank of China
  5. Bank of Communications

All five are state-controlled banks with commercial banking operations. Since Bank of Communications was refounded in 1986, it was sometimes excluded, leaving the rest as "Big Four".[23]


In Colombia, the ten biggest banking service networks are:[24][25]

Name Description Year Net Assets
Banco de Bogotá Largest Private Bank 2017 COP 3.6 trillions
Bancolombia Largest Private Bank 2017 COP 2.6 trillions
Banco Davivienda Largest Private Bank 2017 COP 1.204 trillions
Banco de Occidente Credencial Private Bank 2017 COP 932.827 billions
BBVA Colombia Private Bank 2017 COP 346.333 billions
Banco Agrario de Colombia [es] State owned Bank 2017 COP 339.410 billions
Banco Colpatria Private Bank 2017 COP 253.572 billion
Banco Caja Social [es] Private Bank 2017 COP 238.116 billions
Citibank Colombia Private Bank 2017 COP 172.051 billions
Banco Popular [es] Private Bank 2017 COP 156.033 billions

Czech Republic[edit]

In Czech Republic, according to R. Pazderník,[26] the "big four" are:


In France, according to The Banker,[27] the five major banking groups are:


Hong Kong[edit]

In Hong Kong, some media refer to the followings as "big four":[28]

Standard Chartered Bank (Hong Kong), HSBC and Bank of China (Hong Kong) are the three note-issuing banks. According to Global Retail Banking Cross-sell conducted by RFi group in 2015, HSBC, Bank of China (Hong Kong) and Hang Seng Bank were the top 3 most popular banks in Hong Kong.[29]


In India, the big four largest banks based on total assets are:[30]


In Indonesia, the term "big four" is not explicitly used. As of 2018, the four largest banks by total assets are:[31]


In Ireland, the term "big four" applies to the four largest banks by market capitalisation.[32][33] These all operate in both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, and have a wider international presence; these banks also issue banknotes in Northern Ireland.[34]

Ever since National Irish Bank phased out its personal banking services, it has been suggested that either KBC Ireland or Permanent TSB could replace, in the medium-term, National Irish Bank in its "Big Four" ranking.



In Japan, the term "big three"[36][37] is used instead of "big four". The "big three" are:


In Lebanon, where the banks have retained their banking secrecy laws since 1956, which is prevalent in the whole MENA region, and while adopting international measures to fight money laundering, the "big four" banks consist of:[38]

Furthermore, as of September 2016, there are more than 51 banks in Lebanon, one of the smallest countries in the Middle East, the fact that has always made investors from the Arab countries, especially the GCC petrodollar in addition to the European and world investors, to place their funds in the Lebanese banks.


The "big four" full-service banks in Luxembourg are:[39]

There are bigger banks in Luxembourg, but these only deliver a limited number of services such as investment banking, private banking or corporate banking only. Luxembourg is a financial center.


The "big four" in Mexico are:[40][41]


The "big four" banks in the Netherlands by market concentration are:[42]

The market leader for the Netherlands, ING Group, is one of the largest multinational banking and financial service corporations in the world, with products and services reaching over 41 countries worldwide.[43]


The term "Big Five" is used instead of four, with five banks dominating the Nigerian banking world. In 2011, these top five banks had a combined balance sheet, including contingents, of 12.9 trillion naira ($821 billion), 33 percent higher than the prior year.[44]


The "top five" banks of Pakistan are:[45]


In Peru the "big four" are:[46]


The term "Big Four" is not explicitly used in the Philippines. The following are the four largest banks in the country in terms of total assets as of March 2020:[47]


The Romanian banking system has almost 40 banks, most of them detained by local financial vehicles, and some of them subsidiaries of foreign banks. The big four are as follows.

Other major banks are Raiffeisen Bank, Unicredit Bank and a subsidiary of the ING Bank of Holland.


Four largest banks by operations and assets in Russia by December 2020:[48][49]


In Singapore, the "big three" are:[50]

South Africa[edit]

In South Africa, the "big five" are:[51]

South Korea[edit]

In South Korea the "Big Four" are:[52]


As of March 2017, the "big four" in Spain are:[53]

There were formerly a "big six" (los seis grandes) composed of three banks that are now part of BBVA (Banco de Bilbao, Banco de Vizcaya, and Banco Argentaria) and three now combined as Santander (Banco Central, Banco Hispanoamericano, and Banco de Santander).

Sri Lanka[edit]

In Sri Lanka, the "big four" are, as of October 2018:[54]


In Sweden the "big four" are:[55][56]


In Switzerland, the "big three" hold 45% of all customer deposits. They are:[57]


In Taiwan, the five "systemic banks" are:[58][59]


In 2014, the "big four"[60] together held over 66% of gross loans and controlled more than 67% of total assets in the banking system.[61]

Prior to the Siamese Revolution, the banking system was controlled by foreign powers, particularly the "big four" European banks.[62]:160–169

United Arab Emirates[edit]

Based on total assets of listed banks at the end of 2017,[63][64] big five banks in United Arab Emirates are:

United Kingdom[edit]

England and Wales[edit]

In relation to England and Wales, the phrase "big four banks" is currently used to refer to the four largest banking groups:


In relation to Scotland, the phrase “big four” is currently used to refer to the four largest banking groups:

Northern Ireland[edit]

In relation to Northern Ireland, the phrase “big four” is currently used to refer to the four largest banking groups:

Historical use[edit]

Until 1970, the phrase "big five" (as opposed to “little six”)[68] was used to refer to the five largest UK clearing banks (institutions which clear bankers' cheques), which in England and Wales were:

After the merger of Westminster Bank, National Provincial Bank and District Bank to form National Westminster Bank (now part of NatWest Group) in 1970,[69] the term "big four" came into use instead.

United States[edit]

In the United States, the "big four" banks hold 45% of all U.S. customer deposits (as of 2018), and consist of:[70][71]

From a retail banking perspective, U.S. Bancorp (headquartered in Minneapolis, Minnesota, bank chartered in Cincinnati, Ohio) and PNC Financial Services (headquartered in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, bank chartered in Wilmington, Delaware) both have significantly more branches than Citibank, the retail banking arm of Citigroup.[72] However, Citibank still has significantly more assets than U.S. Bancorp and PNC.[73]

See also[edit]


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