Big Four (banking)

The Big Four is the colloquial name for the four main banks in several countries, where the banking industry is dominated by just four institutions and where the phrase has gained currency.

International use

Internationally, the term "Big Four Banks" has traditionally referred to the following central banks:[1]

The Bank of England is occasionally also included in the list:[2]

Australia/New Zealand

In Australia, the "big four banks" refers to the four largest banks[3] 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'[4][5][6] 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 [7] as well as close to 90% of all mortgages.[8]

These four subsidiaries are massively profitable and in some cases even outperform the Australian parent company.[9] 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.[4] 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,[10] NZ$73.5 million,[11] NZ$14 million[12] and NZ$7 million (albeit with an underlying result of about NZ$30 million) respectively.[13] 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 Belgium are a result of national- and international mergers in the early 90s.


In Brazil, the "big four", according to the Central Bank of Brazil database ( are:


The term "Big Five", is used as opposed to four, with five banks dominating Canadian banking. The operation of Canadian banks include retail banking, mutual funds, insurance, credit cards, and brokerage activities. In addition, they have large international subsidiaries operated through subsidiaries (i.e. CIBC FirstCaribbean International Bank, and TD Bank, N.A.). The Canadian banking operations of the Big Five are largely conducted out of each parent company, unlike U.S. banks that use a holding company structure to hold their primary retail banking subsidiaries. The Big Five include:


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).[14] These were the Yien Yieh Commercial Bank, the Kincheng Banking Corporation, the Continental Bank and The China & South Sea Bank. These 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 banks. These four, together with Central Trust of China, Postal Savings and Remittance Bureau of China, Central Cooperative Treasury of China, were called the "Four Banks, Two Bureaus, One Treasury" or "四行两局一库".[15]

Currently, in the People's Republic of China, the Big Four commercial banks ("四大商业银行") are:

and have been described as such in the Western press. All four are state-controlled banks with commercial banking operations.


The biggest banks in Finland are:

Nordea (predominantly Swedish), Danske (predominantly Danish), Osuuspankki (fully Finnish) and the fourth place is a tie between Aktia, S-pankki and Ålandsbanken.

Finland does not follow the Big 4 model so much as a model of 3 Major + 3 minor.

In the past, pre-1995, the situation was more akin to the "Big Four" model with SYP, KOP, Postipankki and Säästöpankki ruling the banking sector of the country.

This era came to pass, however, by a string of bankruptcies and restructuring.



In Germany, the largest four banks are:

Hong Kong


In India, the largest four banks are:


In Ireland, the term "big four" applies to the four largest banks by market capitalisation.[16][17] 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.[18][19]

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


In Italy the term "big four" is not explicitly used. Banks are rated according to their market capitalization. The first four in 2015 are:[22]


In Japan, the "big four" are:[23]


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:[24]

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 in Luxembourg are:

It should be noted that 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 "top five" banks of Pakistan are:[25]


In Portugal, the "big four" are:[26]


South Africa

In South Africa, the "big four" are:[27]

South Korea

In South Korea, the term "Big Five", is used as opposed to four. The "big five" are:


In Spain, the "big four" are:[28]


In Sweden, the "big four" are:[29]


before Siamese Revolution the banking system are control by foreign power particularly the "big four" European bank

in 2014, the "big four" Bank [30] Together they hold over 66 % of gross loans and controlling more than 67 % of total assets in banking system [31]

United Kingdom

In relation to the United Kingdom, the phrase "big four banks" is currently used to refer to the four largest UK-based banking groups, being:

Until 1970, the phrase "big five banks" 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 and National Provincial Bank to form NatWest (now part of The Royal Bank of Scotland Group) in 1970, the term "big four" was used.

In Scotland the "big four" were:

United States

In the United States, the "big four" banks hold 39% of all U.S. customer deposits (as of 2015), and consist of:[35][36]

From a retail banking perspective, U.S. Bancorp (headquarters in Minneapolis, Minnesota/bank charter Cincinnati, Ohio) and PNC Financial Services (headquarters in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania/bank charter Wilmington, Delaware) both have significantly more branches than Citibank, the retail banking arm of Citigroup.[37] However, Citibank still has significantly more assets than U.S. Bancorp and PNC.[38]


In Vietnam, the "big four" banks by total assets are four commercial banks:


  1. Adler, Lee. "The Big Four Central Banks Muddy The Same Sea of Liquidity". Retrieved 3 March 2015.
  2. "Four Stories of Quantitive Easing". Econ Weekly. Retrieved 3 March 2015.
  3. "Big four banks lower fixed rates". ABC News.
  4. 1 2 Parker, Tamsyn. NZ's big banks record $3.5b profit, The New Zealand Herald, November 5, 2013. Accessed April 14, 2014.
  5. Gray, Jamie. NZ's big banks under pressure, The New Zealand Herald, August 5, 2011. Accessed April 14, 2014.
  6. "Big Four banks' New Zealand profit up". Stuff.
  8. "Kiwibank has the largest mortgage market share percentage growth in 2011; ANZ NZ adds the most volume".
  9. Westpac NZ outperforms Australian parent, The New Zealand Herald, August 16, 2011. Accessed April 14, 2014.
  10. Weir, James. Kiwibank lifts profit as customer base expands
  11. TSB profit rises despite mortgage market competition, Radio New Zealand, May 31, 2013. Accessed April 14, 2014.
  12. "SBS Bank lifts annual net profit nearly 22%". Radio New Zealand. 26 June 2013.
  13. "Heartland sees core growth". Radio New Zealand. 26 August 2013.
  14. "A History of Modern Shanghai Banking".
  15. Yao Sui: Chinese Finance History, High Education Publisher in 2007, Beijing. (in Chinese: 《中国金融史》,姚遂主编,高等教育出版社,2007年版)
  16. "Anglo Irish Bank Corporation (Executive Summary)". SME Financial. Archived from the original on 2011-05-04. Retrieved 2012-01-17. ...The only banks with higher market capitalisation were Allied Irish Banks (AIB) and Bank of Ireland, both with strong retail and commercial presences. Ulster Bank and National Irish Bank are the other members of the ‘Big Four’ retail and commercial banks, both owned by overseas parents and not listed on the Irish Stock Exchange
  17. Hardiman, Cyril (12 February 2005). "'Big Four' Northern banks face probe on pricing and competition claims". Irish Independent. Retrieved 2012-01-22.
  18. "Cross-Border Personal Banking in Ireland" (PDF). Centre for Cross-Border Studies. Retrieved 2012-01-22.
  19. "Current Banknotes :: Current Banknotes". Retrieved 2016-11-09.
  20. Ryan, Susan. AIB's First Trust refunds £350,000 to customers over fee error, Business ETC, November 30, 2011. Accessed April 14, 2014.
  21. "Northern Bank to close four branches". BBC News. 16 January 2012. Retrieved 17 January 2012.
  22. "CLASSIFICA DI BORSA - Le prime 10 banche italiane: in testa Intesa, seconda Unicredit". FIRST Online. 8 January 2015. Retrieved 11 January 2016.
  23. "Japan's Biggest Banks See Profit Declining in Second Half". Bloomberg. Retrieved 29 April 2015.
  24. "Top Lebanese Banks by Assets".
  25. "The top five banks in Pakistan".
  26. "CGD, BCP, BES e BPI reúnem-se com a Comissão Europeia (portuguese)".
  27. "Banks and foreign exchange in SA". Brand South Africa. Retrieved 28 June 2012.
  28. "Los cuatro grandes, más fuertes que nunca (The big four, stronger than ever) (spanish)".
  29. Östlund, Carl-Viggo. "Kunderna gisslan hos storbankerna (The customers held hostage by the big banks) (swedish)".
  30. Fitch Affirms Thailand's 4 Largest Banks
  32. Kar-Gupta, Sudip. UK banks prepare for inevitable shake-up, Reuters, September 1, 2011. Accessed April 14, 2014.
  33. Kar-Gupta, Sudip. UK to prioritise taxpayers as bank shake-up looms, Reuters, April 10, 2011. Accessed. April 14, 2014.
  34. The Big Four by D Rogers
  35. "Citigroup posts 4th straight loss; Merrill loss widens". USA Today. Associated Press. October 16, 2008. Retrieved December 17, 2009.
  36. Temple, James; The Associated Press (November 18, 2008). "Bay Area job losses likely in Citigroup layoffs". The San Francisco Chronicle. Archived from the original on 5 December 2009. Retrieved December 17, 2009.
  37. "Banks Ranked by Number of Branches".
  38. "Banks Ranked by Total Assets".
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