13th June 2024

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Business Industry and Financial

The 10 Biggest Latin American Banks

The largest banks in Latin America are largely concentrated in three countries. Five of the biggest institutions by asset size are in Brazil. The others are headquartered in Mexico and Chile. We highlight some key information about each of these financial institutions, including total assets and a brief history. Rankings are based on total assets, according to an April 2023 report from S&P Global.

Key Takeaways

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

1. Itaú Unibanco Holding SA

  • Country: Brazil
  • Assets: $439.50 billion
  • 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 through his business, Casa Moreira Salles. Since then its focus has 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 17 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

  • Country: Brazil
  • Assets: $379.78 billion
  • 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 one of Brazil’s first financial institutions, having been founded in 1808. Employing nearly 86,000 people as of June 2023, 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

  • Country: Brazil
  • Assets: $340.41 billion
  • Ticker: BBD

Founded in 1943 as Banco Brasileiro de Descontos, Banco Bradesco’s main goal was to attract small business owners, government workers, and “people of modest possessions,” as opposed to “big landowners,” who most other Brazilian banks of that time pursued. 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 77 million retail and corporate banking clients, while employing just over 88,000 people across 2,864 branches. In addition to its banking products, it offers insurance services and retirement plans.

4. Caixa Econômica Federal

  • Country: Brazil
  • Assets: $300.63 billion
  • Ticker: N/A

Established in 1861, Caixa is a private government entity with a close relationship with 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

  • Country: Brazil
  • Assets: $186.41 billion
  • Ticker: BSBR

Banco Santander (Brasil) SA 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 Brazil in 1982.

The company’s Brazilian operations employ 58,505 in 2,772 branches as of the first quarter of 2023. There are 63.3 million total Brazilian customers. This is the major 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 institutions in Latin America in 2023 even with the depreciation of the real and currency rate fluctuations.

6. Grupo Financiero BBVA México SA de CV

  • Country: Mexico
  • Assets: $158.31 billion
  • 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. As of June 2023 Groupo Financiero BBVA had 1,736 bank locations and a network of 14,232 automated teller machines (ATMs) in the country.

Four of the world’s five largest banks are in China. As of Dec. 31, 2022, the country’s top four banks had a combined asset value of  $19.87 trillion.

7. Grupo Financiero Banorte SAB de CV

  • Country: Mexico
  • Assets: $106.12 billion
  • 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.

8. Banco de Crédito e Inversiones

  • Country: Chile
  • Assets: $98.10 billion
  • 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, who own 63.56% 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 (HNWIs). It also owns the City National Bank of Florida.

Headquartered in Santiago, as of Dec. 31, 2022, BCI had 197 branches and 11,514 employees in Chile. Beside the U.S., it also has a presence in Peru, Brazil, Mexico, Colombia, and China.

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

  • Country: Mexico
  • Assets: $92.97 billion
  • Ticker: N/A

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 Santander Chile

  • Country: Chile
  • Assets: 85.74 billion
  • Ticker: N/A

Banco Santander Chile was established in 1978 and aimed chiefly at foreign trade. Four years later it bought out Banco Español Chile, and in 1996 it merged with Banco Osorno y la Unión to become one of the largest banks in Chile. It offers “a wide range of commercial and retail banking services, including loans denominated in Chilean pesos and in foreign currency to finance a wide variety of commercial transactions, commerce, forward contracts, and lines of credit in foreign currency.”

It also provides financial leasing, financial advisory services, investment fund management, securities, insurance, and investment brokerage. As of March 31, 2023, it had 259 branches and 9,928 employees in Chile serving a total of 3.7 million customers.

What Is the Largest Bank in Latin America?

Brazil’s Itaú Unibanco Holding SA is the largest bank in Latin America. As of April 2023 the bank had $439.50 billion in assets, according to a report from S&P Global.

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 $158.31 billion in assets as of April 2023.

What Is the Largest Bank in the World?

According to S&P Global, China’s Industrial and Commercial Bank of China is the largest bank in the world, with $5.74 trillion in assets as of Dec. 31, 2022. It was followed by two other Chinese banks: China Construction Bank, with $5.02 trillion in assets, and the Agricultural Bank of China, with $4.92 trillion in assets.

The Bottom Line

Like many banks around the globe, Latin American banks are still clawing their way back from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Perhaps that’s why the 2023 top 10 list stayed remarkably consistent with its 2022 version. The ranking order remained unaltered, but one bank, Grupo Aval Acciones y Valores SA, Colombia’s only bank to make the list, dropped off it, falling from eighth to 16th among the top 100 Latin American banks. This allowed Banco Santander Chile SA to sneak on, bumping up from 11th to 10th place. This also meant that the number of countries on the list dropped from four to three: Brazil, Mexico, and Chile.