According to the FDIC, there are 4,844 commercial and savings banks in the U.S with over 22 trillion dollars in assets based on the latest data available as of 2021. The top ten largest banks in the country account for 59% of those total assets; over 13 trillion dollars in value. The top four large banks in the country, JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, and Citigroup, hold one-fifth of all US deposits. There are many factors that determine the best bank for depositors, such as whether one wants to go into a branch or prefers to bank online. There is also the factor of personal needs at various stages in life; do you need to buy a car and thereby need an auto loan. As such, there are numerous other products banks offer that may hold greater sway among certain consumers; home mortgages, credit cards, safety deposit boxes, business accounts, even insurance products.
Then there is the question of how many of these activities can be done online or through a mobile app. What consumers want from their banks shouldn’t be an enigma and is in fact quite simple. Customers want the process to be easy. There are many ways banks offer this for their customers. Eight out of ten customers want mobile banking as their top service priority. However, proximity to the bank’s branch is a close second. Since the Great Finance Crisis which led to the bailout of banks, and some of the largest banks to be considered Too Big to Fail (TBTF), more consumers flocked to such banks with their deposits considering them to be a haven. The large banks in the country are exactly that – large! These banks have amassed a massive deposit base, offer almost all tertiary services customers can need, and accrued a majority of the $263 billion in net income earned by the banking industry in the US last year.
Considering all these different factors, we learned that it is often the big banks in the country that tick the checkboxes for offering most of those options. Below we list the top ten banks in the U.S. and explore what makes each of these large banks in the country stand out.
JPMorgan Chase – The largest of all banks in the U.S with nearly $3.5 trillion in total assets, JPMorgan Chase, or simply Chase, has been a banking behemoth for over two decades. The company has always operated with a sound risk management strategy, often a contrarian in that regard, which has allowed the bank to grow even in times of distress.
Being one of few banks with a ‘fortress balance sheet,’ the 2008-09 financial crisis allowed JPMorgan to hobble up competitors and prized assets such as Bear Stearns and Washington Mutual. Today, unlike other big banks in the country which are shedding branches, JPMorgan has continuously announced an expansion of the company’s branch footprint throughout the US. Today, the company has the largest branch footprint with 4,814 branches all across the continental US. JPMorgan Chase’s plans to further expand the company’s branch network by an additional 400 branches are currently underway.
Bank of America – The second largest bank in the U.S with total assets of over $2.5 trillion, the Charlotte, North Carolina-based Bank of America has over 67 million customers, which was cemented by the bank’s robust digital product offering, including a very versatile mobile app. Bank of America has a branch network of 4,200 branches with over 16,000 ATMs across the US.
Bank of America further entrenched the company’s position in investment banking and broker dealer operations after its acquisition of famed wealth management and investment management firm Merrill Lynch in September 2008, at the height of the great financial crisis.
The company also allows customers seamless access to Zelle, a P2P payment app with which customers can easily transfer funds to the bank accounts of family and friends. Furthermore, Bank of America is one of the few big banks in the country that has an Artificial Intelligence-powered tool, called Erica, that serves as a virtual assistant to advise customers on expense tracking, money management, and budgeting.
Following the lead of other banks in the U.S, Bank of America recently announced plans to lower overdraft fees and do away with fees associated with non sufficient funds.
Wells Fargo Bank – The third largest of the big banks in the country with nearly $1.8 trillion in total assets, Wells Fargo traces its roots back to 1852, headquartered in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Wells Fargo Bank has had a history of very conservative risk management allowing the bank to double its size and branch footprint in the US when the company acquired Wachovia in the wake of the financial crisis in 2008. What has resulted is a bank with the second largest branch footprint in the US, with 4,786 branches in 40 states.
Although the bank has sought to reduce its branch footprint in light of consumer preferences and has instead started focusing efforts on an intuitive app that has earned high ratings on both the Google Play Store and Apple’s App Store. Along with Wells Fargo Online, the bank also offers the Wells Fargo Mobile app, in addition to access to the Zelle app, which Wells Fargo owns along with a consortium of other large banks in the country.
Citigroup – The fourth largest of banks in the U.S, the Sioux Falls, South Dakota-based Citigroup, or Citibank as it is commonly known by consumers, has nearly $1.7 trillion in total assets, only 60% of which come from US operations. The bank has the smallest branch network in the US among the big banks in the country, with 668 branches in the US as of March 31, 2022.
For many decades, during the seventies, eighties and nineties, Citibank was the largest bank in the U.S. The company was the sole American bank among a global bank ranking composed mainly of Asian and European financial institutions. The company made an ill-fated bet on challenging the Glass-Steagall Act by announcing the bank’s merger with Traveler’s Group, an insurance company, looking to offer consumers a one-stop shop of financial services. Although successful in the merger effort after the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act, the bank became too large to manage and was unable to mitigate risks associated with the company’s subprime lending operations in the runup to the 2007-09 financial crisis. Subsequently, the bank, along with other big banks in the country, became heavily regulated and Citibank began to cut costs and scale back operations and the company’s retail banking presence.
Regardless of the bank’s small branch footprint today, Citibank has nearly 65,000 ATMs throughout the country that do not charge any service fees, along with thousands more spread across global operations in over 160 countries.
US Bank – The fifth largest bank in the U.S, the Cincinnati, Ohio-based US Bank started out in 1863 and currently has a total asset base of about $578 billion. US Bank, like many other big banks in the country, has a history of using mergers and acquisitions to become one of the largest banks in the country today.
The bank has leveraged technologies such as Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Siri, and Google Home to offer a more seamless and convenient product offering. An example of which is US Bank’s Amazon Alexa skill to pay outstanding card balances.
PNC Bank – Wilmington, Delaware-based PNC bank is the sixth largest bank in the country with almost $535 billion in total assets and nearly 2,700 branches. Although PNC Banks is ranked among the large banks in the country, it is mostly a regional bank serving specific states in the Northeast, Midwest, and some in the South.
PNC doubled in size in 2008 after it acquired National City Corp., the Cleveland, Ohio-based bank which became embroiled in subprime lending troubles at the height of the great financial crisis. PNC Bank further expanded operations eastward after the 2020 acquisition of BBVA USA after parent company Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria exited US operations.
Many large banks in the country leverage their size and perception of “too big to fail” and offer minimal rates on their savings accounts. However, PNC has been cited for offering some of the best savings deposit rates in the industry.
Truist – The seventh largest bank with assets of $531 billion as a result of the 2019 merger of equals between SunTrust and BB&T. The combined entity has about 3,000 ATMs and 2,500 branches across 17 states and Washington D.C.
The Charlotte, North Carolina-based bank offers ten million customers access to Trust’s own mobile banking app as well as access to the Zelle app to both receive and send funds as it is a part-owner of the payments app.
Goldman Sachs – The eighth largest bank in the US with nearly $475 billion in total assets, Goldman Sachs has only been a bank after converting to a bank holding company during the 2007-09 great financial crisis. The company was founded as an investment banking partnership in 1869 in New York City, where it is still headquartered today. In May 1999, Goldman Sachs filed for an initial public offering at the height of the stock market cycle of the late-nineties, shedding the company’s partnership structure after a multi-decade debate over the decision.
In September 2008, Goldman Sachs converted to a bank holding company for the company to access the Federal Reserve Discount Window, a liquidity facility only offered to banks. The move ended a nearly 140-year era as an independent security firm, one of the very few of its kind that still existed at the time but allowed the company to survive the great financial crisis in exchange for future and ongoing prudential regulation by the U.S. Federal Reserve. The move also allowed Goldman Sachs to receive a $10 billion investment by the U.S. Department of Treasury as a form of financial bailout via the Troubled Asset Relief Program during the 2007-09 financial crisis.
In 2016, Goldman Sachs launched Marcus, named after the company’s founder Marcus Goldman, an online bank app to diversify the bank’s funding and revenue sources by expanding into retail deposit and loan operations.
TD Bank – The ninth largest bank with $417 billion in total assets is Wilmington, Delaware-based TD Bank. It is the only one on this list of big banks in the country that has a foreign parent, the TD Bank Group of Canada. TD Bank has 1100 over 1,100 branches across the East coast, starting from Florida all the way to Maine. TD Bank has been a culmination of many smaller banks throughout the east coast states, from the Portland Maine-based Banknorth in 2004, to the acquisition of America’s Most Convenient Bank, Commerce Bank, in May 2008.
It was Commerce Bank that really shook up the northeast regional banking scene offering fast food-like service in the banking space. With monikers like ‘no stupid fees, and no stupid hours,’ Commerce Bank was open seven days a week, until 8 pm every day, with actual human tellers answering phones rather than automated machine prompts. Unfortunately, the bank’s convenience tagline is all that survives now at TD Bank, with none of the service pedigree around days of operations, daily schedules, or the elimination of fees.
Capital One Financial – The last of the big banks in the country to round out the top 10 is McLean, Virginia-based Capital One Financial, with total assets of $385 billion. 1,157 branches and a network of over 70,000 cost-free ATMs in the US.
Established in 1994 after a spinoff of the credit card operations of Signet Financial, Capital One remained a relatively obscure monoline bank offering only credit cards to customers, until it expanded operations to include auto loans in 1996 after gaining approval for a savings bank charter that year. Over the next decade, Capital One gobbled up various auto and credit card loan companies before embarking on acquiring other retail banks in 2005.
Today, Capital One Financial offers very customer-centric product offerings with no minimum bank balances, no monthly fees, no-fee ATMs, no longer charges non sufficient fund fees, and has limited itself to one overdraft fee per day per customer.
Another differentiating feature available to Capital One customers is the above-average rates offered to them via the bank’s 360 Checking accounts. The accounts offer the first 50-page checkbook for free, pays interest on all balances at a tiered-rate, allows mobile deposits, as well as online payments for bills, without any minimum balances.
There has been tremendous growth in offering financial services to consumers. Not all of it is a result of efforts by the large banks in the country. The advent of smartphones, faster internet, improvements in payments technology by the latest entry of technology companies into the industry, improved customer experiences have all shifted demographic habits towards a great degree of financial inclusion.
There are many headwinds that the big banks in the country face. According to PwC’s 2021 Digital Banking Consumer Survey, almost 25% of banking customers would rather transact and open their accounts digitally but are forced to do so in a bank branch. As a result, American consumers are shifting their banking activity towards direct banks, banks that exist solely online. In the US, as much as 20% of primary banking relationships are conducted via direct banks as of 2021, twice the rate of just two years prior.
Furthermore, according to McKinsey’s 2021 Digital Payments Consumer Survey, 30 percent of those surveyed said that they have utilized the Buy Now Pay Later option. Of this cohort that used the BNPL payment option, 29 percent said that it enabled them to either make a purchase they would otherwise not have, or it allowed them to spend more than they normally could.
Furthermore, according to the same McKinsey survey, nearly 20 percent of those surveyed reported either holding or having held cryptocurrencies, mainly for purposes of an investment asset rather than a transactable currency.
Payment options, financing options, and currency exchange have all historically been the domain expertise of banks in the U.S, namely the big banks in the country. The industry which has experienced these shifts in consumer preferences for well over a decade has been successful in managing those challenges in the past. It was a consortium of banks that launched clearXchange in 2011 to offer payments services. That initiative was signed by many additional banks and subsequently became the Zelle app, a digital solution to send and receive funds and to rival P2P payments solutions from the likes of PayPal and Venmo.
However, current trends pose bigger challenges, especially as non-banking entities encroach into some areas of the banking industry with their own payments solutions, just as the industry has been slow to adopt in other areas.