Battle to be the biggest bank in SA

Looking at the latest full-year data from South Africa’s biggest retail banks, there is a clear battle between FirstRand and Standard Bank Group to be the biggest bank in the country.

Standard Bank recently released its full-year results for the 2014 financial year, the last of the big five banks to do so.

With all the full year data at hand (including the 2015 full year data for Capitec), we are able to paint the current standings of the South African retail banking market.

Looking at market value, customer base and profits of all the banks, Standard Bank and FirstRand come out as the top two contenders for the title – a position once held with a degree of consistency by the former.

Notably, Standard Bank lost its crown as South Africa’s most valuable JSE-listed bank last year when FirstRand Group overtook the former champion in terms of market capitalization.

Pushing into 2015, with further stumbles by Standard Bank, the FirstRand Group remained firm in the lead position with a market cap of R320.4 billion, versus Standard Bank’s R280 billion.

Biggest market cap (30 April 2015)

Bank Market Cap  P:E ratio
FirstRand R320.41 billion 15.8
Standard Bank R283.17 billion 16.2
Absa R161.89 billion 12.4
Nedbank R127.71 billion 12.1
Capitec R65.17 billion 25.5

Data from Bloomberg

Biggest customer base

One area where Standard Bank has maintained its lead, however, is in its customers.

The market share landscape has remained fairly stable in South Africa over the past few years in terms of bank placement.

Standard Bank remains the bank with the biggest customer base in the country, followed by Absa, which recovered from a significant dip in 2013.

FirstRand’s retail banking arm, FNB, which had seen massive growth in customers following an aggressive marketing push in 2012/13, is the only bank which saw a drop in customer numbers, year on year, between 2013 and 2014.

In it’s full year report for 2014, FNB indicated a customer base of 7.1 million customers, down significantly from the 7.6 million reported in 2013.

However, the loss of government’s social grant tender resulted in the bank losing a big portion of mass market customers, accounting for the decline.

As at December 2014 – 6 months after the reported full year results, FNB reported having 7.3 million retail customers in South Africa.

Bank Customers 2013/14 Customers 2014/15 Change
Standard Bank 10.4 million 11.1 million 6.7%
Absa 8.6 million 9.2 million 7.0%
FNB 7.6 million 7.3 million -3.9%
Nedbank 6.7 million 7.1 million 6.0%
Capitec 5.8 million 6.2 million 6.9%

Biggest profits

The last measure for title of the “biggest” looks at revenue, and more importantly, profits.

Standard Bank boosted both revenue and profit by 15% in 2014, pushing the former up to R84.2 billion, and the latter to R18.1 billion.

FirstRand prefers to report normalised results, believing it to be the most accurate reflection of its economic performance.

The group reported a boost in normalised earnings to R18.7 billion in 2014 – making it the biggest profit spinner of all the banking groups – though the breakdown of FNB’s financial performance provides more insight into the bank’s income at retail level.

FNB recorded a net income of R37.6 billion, and normalised earnings of R9.46 billion for the last financial year ended June 2014.

Bank Revenue Headline / Normalised earnings
FirstRand R18.7 billion
Standard Bank R84.2 billion R18.15 billion
Absa R63.1 billion R13.03 billion
Nedbank R23.0 billion R9.78 billion
FNB R37.6 billion R9.46 billion
Capitec R10.8 billion R2.55 billion

Brand Value

Asset valuation consultancy, Brand Finance, in association with The Banker, released its 2015 Banking 500 list earlier in the year, which ranks the world’s top 500 banking brands according to their brand value.

Brand value is determined through the “royalty relief” method, which determines the value a company would be willing to pay to license its brand as if it did not own it.

In 2014’s ranking, Standard Bank was rated as the most valuable banking brand in the country – a position it has now lost to two other banks, having lost 21% of its brand value over the course of the past year.

According to the group’s ranking,  SA’s most valuable banking brand is Absa, which boosted its banking brand value by 30% to US$1.58 billion from US$1.2 billion in 2014.

Also shooting past the former number one, First National Bank grew its brand value by 31% to US$1.38 billion from just over US$1 billion the previous year.

The remaining SA banks – Nedbank, Investec, WesBank and RMB – all slipped down the list, having lost brand value according to Brand Finance’s metric.

Capitec was not ranked.

South African banks brand value

Bank Brand Value 2015 Brand Value 2014 Change
Absa R189.1 billion R145.9 billion 30%
FNB R165.3 billion R126.0 billion 31%
Standard Bank R150.8 billion R190.3 billion -21%
Nedbank R139.5 billion R142.7 billion -2%

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Battle to be the biggest bank in SA