OCBC Bank was recently named as the world’s strongest bank for the second straight year by Bloomberg Markets Magazine. (The ranking featured 78 global banks with at least US$100 billion in total assets.They were assessed based on factors such as their Tier 1 capital ratio, loan-to-deposit ratio, ratio of non-performing assets to total assets and their efficiency ratio, which compares costs with revenues.)
OCBC said the bank’s strength is partly built on its “disciplined credit management practices and robust risk management capabilities”.
If I were the controlling shareholder of OCBC, I’d be very upset at this ranking because what it means is that OCBC is not making its assets work: it has too much capital. I’d tell the board that the most impt KPI should be that OCBC drops out of the top 10 on the list.
It can be done. UOB was at seventh place, down from sixth last year, while DBS fell three spots to eighth this year.
UOB and DBS are doing the right thing. Their core market (like that of OCBC) is S’pore and it’s a safe, boring, stable market where margins are only so-so. So not much capital is needed, if one sticks to the basics of banking, and not try to be a hedgie.
As to the right amount of capital, look at StanChart at no.12. It operates in a wide range of emerging markets, some in unstable parts of the world like West Africa and so needs to have capital lying around. If S’porean banks have abt the same level of capital, they should still be safe.