As the European debt crisis slogs on and a handful of too-big-to-fail American banks face a seemingly unending litany of woe stemming from their near-death experiences in 2008 and 2009, it's intriguing to check out the ranks of the world's safest banks.
Six Canadian players all rank among the top 25 most creditworthy banks in the latest semi-annual list compiled by Global Finance magazine and appearing in its April edition. Royal Bank of Canada leads the Canadian pack in 10th place, with Toronto-Dominion Bank in 11th spot and Bank of Nova Scotia in 14th. Caisse centrale Desjardins holds down 18th spot, while Bank of Montreal and Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce come in at 23rd and 24th, respectively.
The first U.S. bank, BNY Mellon , surfaces in 25th place. Another U.S. bank, CoBank ACB, ranks 31st. And the only others to make the top 50 are JPMorgan Chase & Co. (36th), U.S. Bancorp (38th) and Northern Trust Corp., one notch behind National Bank of Canada in 41st. The creditworthiness survey is based on a comparison of long-term credit ratings and total assets of the world's 500 biggest banks.
"Counterparty creditworthiness has seldom been of more concern to companies and investors worldwide," Global Finance publisher Joseph Giarraputo said in a statement. "This ranking helps companies and investors to get a view on the relative strength of their counterparties – and global financial institutions."
What might come as a surprise is that all of the spots above RBC are still occupied by European banks, four of which are German, including top-ranked German development bank KfW. But that's one of the benefits of being owned or fully backstopped by a government that hasn't run out of money yet.