Battle of the banks 2022: Capitec vs Standard Bank vs FNB vs Absa vs Nedbank

 ·18 Sep 2022

As South Africa’s banking sector faces increasing competition from new digital entrants, a fierce battle still rages on among the ‘legacy’ institutions.

Referred to as the ‘big five’, these firms go beyond retail offerings, with a full-service portfolio of credit, loans, asset management, and other services, while fending off new digital entrants into the market, including TymeBank, Discovery Bank, and Bank Zero.

So which of these institutions – Capitec, Standard Bank, Absa, FirstRand or Nedbank – stands tallest, or is the biggest? It depends on the category.

BusinessTech looked at the most recent annual financial reports (from 2021/22) and compared the big five banks on 12 key metrics – from financial performance to network and reach.

The data below covers both group and South African operations – for example, group data was used for employees, and finances, while South African data was taken for customer numbers. FNB is represented by FirstRand Group, but FNB branches and ATMs were used for the figures. Share prices, market cap and P/E rations were taken from Bloomberg data.

The data covers the following reporting periods:

  • FirstRand – FY 2022 (ended June)
  • Capitec – FY 2022 (ended February)
  • Absa – FY 2021 (ended December)
  • Nedbank – FY 2021 (ended December)
  • Standard Bank FY 2021 (ended December)

Market capitalisation and P/E ratio

Back in 2017, Capitec had the smallest market capitalisation across the big five retail banks but has since climbed to third-largest by this metric,

FirstRand, meanwhile, has solidified its position as the most valuable bank on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange.

When it comes to share price, Capitec far surpasses its peers. The group shot past the R1,000 per share mark in 2018, and now sits close to R1,775 per share. This, however, also makes it the most expensive when looking at the price over earnings (P/E) ratio, almost double the next in line.

The P/E ratio is the ratio for valuing a company that measures its current share price relative to its per-share earnings. The ‘cheapest’ stock among the banks is Absa, with a P/E of 6.59.

Bank Market Cap Share price P/E Ratio
FirstRand (FNB) R361.2 billion R65.16 11.61
Standard Bank R244.4 billion R148.31 8.26
Capitec R207.1 billion R1 774.08 24.08
Absa Bank R151.2 billion R182.39 6.59
Nedbank R108.2 billion R213.24 8.19

Group Finances

Standard Bank is the top-earning institution among local banks, with a total income of R123.1 billion. Following the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020 and 2021, banks have been slowly picking up the pieces of their operations and finding normal footing again.

Comparing income and earnings data year on year, however, it’s easy to see that the recovery is well underway.

While Standard Bank is the top revenue generator, FirstRand maintained its pole position in terms of headline earnings.

Income reflects both the interest and non-interest income for the respective banks. Headline earnings are a measure of a company’s earnings based solely on operational and capital investment activities. It excludes income that may relate to staff reductions, sales of assets, or accounting write-downs.

In terms of headline earnings per share, Capitec is the clear leader by some margin.

Bank Income Headline Earnings HEPS (cents)
Standard Bank R123.1 billion R25.0 billion 1 573
Absa Bank R85.91 billion R18.6 billion 2 197
FirstRand (FNB) R81.92 billion R32.8 billion 585
Nedbank R51.78 billion R11.7 billion 2 410
Capitec R23.45 billion R8.4 billion 7 300

Core capital

The Banker’s top 1000 banks report is based on a measure of a bank’s Tier 1 Capital – known as core capital, which consists of shareholders’ equity and retained earnings.

South Africa’s banking sector is again led by Standard Bank, which retains its position as the biggest bank in the country when measuring capital. This is followed by FirstRand, which, along with retaining its number two spot, was also the biggest gainer over the past 12 months.

Bank Tier 1 Capital ($m)
Standard Bank $11 727
FirstRand (FNB) $10 464
Absa Bank $8 238
Nedbank $5 887
Capitec $2 027

Reach and network

As banks accelerate their digital transformation, physical branches and ATM networks are moving in the opposite direction. Where branches aren’t being closed altogether, the space they currently occupy is actively being reduced.

In the post-Covid-19 era, the digital drive has accelerated further, while physical points of presence have also taken a knock. Despite this, South Africa’s banks still have a sprawling presence across the country.

The banks have made it clear that a physical presence is still vital to servicing customers. Branches and ATMs are still key to operations.

Standard Bank has the most physical branches available out of the big five, while Absa has the most auto-teller machines.

Bank Employees Branches ATMs
Standard Bank 49 224 1 042 6 600
FirstRand (FNB) 38 221 604 4 774
Absa Bank 35 267 1 007 8 668
Nedbank 26 861 538 4 261
Capitec 14 758 853 7 187


Capitec has grabbed headlines over the years for its strong growth and now sits comfortably as the largest retail bank in the country in terms of active retail customers. At the end of its latest financial year, the group reported 18.1 million active customers.

Having millions of customers is a goal for all groups to reach financial targets, however, thanks to social networks and big data capabilities, customer satisfaction has become a valued metric to determine success.

The latest South African Consumer Satisfaction Index for the country’s retail banks showed that Nedbank customers are the happiest with their services, while Absa and Standard Bank lag behind.

Capitec was not included in the 2022 ranking, but its customers have historically been quite satisfied with the bank.

Bank Active retail customers SA (FY2021/22) Customer Satisfaction (2022)
Capitec 18.1 million Not rated
Standard Bank 10.2 million 81.1
Absa Bank 9.6 million 77.0
FirstRand (FNB) 9.1 million 79.8
Nedbank 6.4 million 81.9

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