“What are the richest companies in the world?” is a more complicated question than it seems. After all, a company’s financial status can be gauged using numerous financial metrics, each of which provides very specific information about a very specific topic. It’s common for more than one financial metric to be considered. One excellent example of this can be seen in how Forbes created its Global 2000 list for 2022 by using not one, not two, not three, but four financial metrics.
These would be a company’s sales, a company’s profits, a company’s total assets, and a company’s market value. Furthermore, even when people choose to rank the richest companies based on their value, there is still the matter of how that value should be calculated. Different companies can use different accounting practices. Similarly, Investopedia points out that market capitalization is at best an imperfect estimate of the market value of a company’s equity, which is not the same thing as the market value of a company as a whole. Under these circumstances, people need to have a clear idea of what is meant by the richest company because that will say much about what they are being told.
20. Barclays – $1,895 Billion
There are a lot of banks on this list. The first of them is Barclays, which is a universal bank headquartered in London, England. It can trace its roots to 1690. That was when John Freame and Thomas Gould started operating as goldsmith bankers, though it wasn’t until Freame’s son-in-law James Barclay became a partner that Barclays became associated with the name Barclays. Nowadays, Barclays is one of the most important companies on the planet, so much so that the Financial Stability Board considers it to be systematically important.
19. Postal Savings Bank of China – $1,895 Billion
The Postal Savings Bank of China is one of the newer names on this list. For context, it was founded in 2007 using an initial investment of 20 billion RMB from the State Post Bureau, which is the part of the Chinese government responsible for overseeing the Chinese postal system. Since then, the Postal Savings Bank of China has become one of the biggest banks in its home country. This can be seen in how it has the second-most number of branches, beaten out by just the Agricultural Bank of China in this regard.
18. Wells Fargo – $1,948 Billion
Like a lot of other companies on this list, Wells Fargo is also considered to be systematically important by the Financial Stability Board. In its case, it is a financial services company based out of the United States rather than a universal bank based out of the United Kingdom. There was a time when Wells Fargo had a reputation for prudent management because of how well it managed to weather the financial crisis of 2007 and 2008. Unfortunately, its account fraud scandal means that its modern reputation is less exemplary. Still, Wells Fargo remains very important in both the United States and beyond.
17. Mizuho Financial Group – $2,041 Billion
Its name makes it clear that Mizuho Financial Group hails from Japan. Unsurprisingly, it is involved in banking as well. Specifically, Mizuho Financial Group is a holding company for operations that provide banking and other financial services. Once upon a time, a series of mergers enabled it to become the biggest bank in the entire world. However, Mizuho Financial Group has since been surpassed by several other companies in both Japan and other countries even though its holdings have increased to more than two trillion dollars. Still, it will always hold the record for being the first trillion-dollar bank in the entire world.
16. Japan Post Bank – $2,042 Billion
Some people might be wondering why Japan Post Bank’s name sounds like that of the Postal Savings Bank of China. If so, they should know that both started as postal savings systems, which still exist in some modern countries. The Japanese government decided to privatize Japan Post Bank in 2005. However, the process is still ongoing, which should make it clear that progress hasn’t been smooth throughout. One of the disruptions was the financial crisis of 2007 and 2008 which convinced the Japanese government to halt privatization for a time. The sale of shares didn’t resume until after the Great East Japan Earthquake in 2011.
15. Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group – $2,168 Billion
The Japanese financial system is dominated by a trio of megabanks. Chances are good that interested individuals can guess that Mizuho Financial Group is one of them. Another would be Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation Group. The holding company’s primary subsidiary is the banking unit called the Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation but there are other important subsidiaries focused on securities, asset management, and so on.
14. Citigroup – $2,291 Billion
Citigroup came into existence through the merger of Citicorp and Travelers Group in 1998. That turned out to be less fruitful than what the leadership had expected, so the latter was spun off and then sold off. Despite that, Citigroup retained Citigroup as its legal name. Furthermore, the influence of Travelers Group’s red umbrella can still be seen in the red arc over the name “Citi” under which it now operates. Regardless, Citigroup is one of the four most important banking institutions in the United States with the result that it is often cited as an example of such institutions that are too big to fail.
13. Credit Agricole – $2,446 Billion
Agricole means “agricultural.” That makes it very easy for people to guess that Credit Agricole started in farming banking. The institution can trace its roots to the late 19th century, which was when the French government required the French central bank to fund some farming banks that were struggling at the time. Those weren’t the first farming banks in the country.
By the late 19th century, there was a keen awareness that French farmers lacked convenient access to long-term credit with reasonable lending conditions, so there had been several failed attempts to establish farming banks to remedy that lack. It wasn’t until the French government’s requirement that these farming banks managed to stick around. Fortunately, Credit Agricole is on much firmer footing in the present, though it still consists of a central institution plus a network of both local and regional institutions. The cooperative nature of those institutions means that the institution as a whole can claim to be the biggest example of cooperative banking in the entire world.
12. Japan Post Holdings – $2,689 Billion
Japan Post Holdings has a connection to Japan Post Bank. It is the conglomerate responsible for Japan Post and its counterparts, which include Japan Post Bank. Currently, Japan Post Holdings has four major subsidiaries. Both Japan Post and Japan Post Bank are counted among the four. Meanwhile, the other two are Japan Post Insurance and Toll Group. The name of Japan Post Insurance should make it clear that it is involved in insurance. As for Toll Group, it is involved in transportation and logistics.
11. Freddie Mac – $2,938 Billion
Freddie Mac is the commonly-used name of the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation. As its name suggests, it exists to make more money available for mortgage lending by expanding the secondary market for mortgages in the United States. Due to that, Freddie Mac has about three trillion dollars in assets, which are more than enough to make it one of the biggest companies in the entire world.
10. HSBC Holdings – $2,966 Billion
HSBC is named thus because it was once called the Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation. However, it hasn’t been based out of Hong Kong since 1992, which was when it was required to move its world headquarters to London in exchange for it being permitted to buy out Midland Bank. In any case, HSBC doesn’t have the best reputation because it stumbles into controversies on a semi-regular basis. Some people might remember how it was involved in money laundering for drug cartels, which is rather interesting considering that it was involved in the opium trade in the earliest period of its existence.
9. BNP Paribas – $3,168 Billion
BNP Paribas came into existence through the merger of a couple of French banks. One was the National Bank of Paris. The other was the Bank of Paris and the Netherlands. Together, the result is one of the biggest banks in France and beyond. Indeed, BNP Paribas was one of the five biggest banks in the entire world following the financial crisis of 2007 and 2008, though it has since slipped to being one of the ten biggest banks in the entire world.
8. Bank of America Corporation – $3,170 Billion
Amusingly, it can be said that Bank of America was once called the Bank of Italy. Essentially, the latter was founded in 1904 to serve Italian-Americans and other working-class residents of North Beach in San Francisco. Later, it merged with a local bank called Bank of America before taking on the name of Bank of America. From those humble beginnings, the bank has become a colossus in not just U.S. banking but also world banking as a whole. This can be seen in how it is now the second biggest bank in the United States.
7. Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group – $3,238 Billion
The zaibatsu were powerful business conglomerates that existed in the Empire of Japan. They were broken up by the Allies after World War Two but their constituent companies are still around. For instance, the Mitsubishi zaibatsu was one of the Big Four zaibatsu. At the present, its constituent companies are independent of one another but still retain some connections with one another, which is why they are sometimes called the Mitsubishi keiretsu. Some of these companies are better-known than others. To name an example, there is the Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group, which is the biggest financial group in the whole of Japan.
6. JPMorgan Chase – $3,744 Billion
Speaking of which, JPMorgan Chase would be the biggest example of such companies in the United States. It picked up its name in much the same manner as several other names on this list. In short, JPMorgan Chase started as Chemical Bank, took the name of Chase Manhattan when it bought out said bank, and then became JPMorgan Chase when it merged with J.P. Morgan.
5. Bank of China Limited – $4,068 Billion
Once upon a time, the Bank of China was the central bank of China, having been founded for that purpose by the Republic of China. It was replaced in that role by the People’s Bank of China. However, the Bank of China itself is still around, thus making it the second oldest Chinese bank that is still in existence. It is interesting to note that the Bank of China is one of two companies that split off from the original. This is because when the Communists won the Chinese Civil War, some of the branches aligned with the headquarters in Beijing while others aligned with the headquarters in Taipei. The latter group would eventually take the name International Commercial Bank of China.
4. Fannie Mae – $4,209 Billion
Fannie Mae is often mentioned in the same breath as Freddie Mac. This is because Fannie Mae stands for the Federal National Mortgage Association, which serves the same purpose of expanding the secondary market for mortgages. It stands out by being even bigger than its sibling institution.
3. Agricultural Bank of China – $4,496 Billion
The next three names on this list are the three biggest banks in China. First, there is the Agricultural Bank of China, which has a somewhat complicated history. It considers the Agricultural Cooperation Bank to be its ancestor. The issue is that it has no direct relationship with the Agricultural Cooperation Bank because that was absorbed into the People’s Bank of China in 1952. Subsequently, not one but two more agricultural banks were founded before being absorbed into the People’s Bank of China.
The modern Agricultural Bank of China wasn’t founded until 1979 before going public in 2010. It has the distinction of having been targeted by the biggest bank robbery in Chinese history. A pair of vault managers stole about USD 6.7 million in RMB so that they could buy lottery tickets. They wanted to win the prize, and then use the prize to replace the money. One of the two vault managers managed to pull off the scheme on an earlier occasion. This emboldened him to try it out on a bigger scale.
2. China Construction Bank Corporation – $4,673 Billion
Second, there is the China Construction Bank. Unlike the Agricultural Bank of China, this bank was founded in 1954, though it operated under the name of the People’s Construction Bank of China until 1996. At one point in time, it had a close relationship with Bank of America. The latter had a sizable ownership stake, which was sold off in the late 2000s and early 2010s. Meanwhile, the China Construction Bank bought the Bank of America (Asia), which was the Security Pacific Asian Bank before that and the Bank of Canton before even that.
1. Industrial and Commercial Bank of China – $5,490 Billion
There is the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China. It is a state-owned commercial bank that is considered to be the biggest bank in the entire world. It came into existence in the late 1970s because of the Chinese government’s banking reform. The Industrial and Commercial Bank of China has earned a reputation for being very profitable. This makes sense considering its extensive operations worldwide.