Battle of the banks 2022: Capitec vs Standard Bank vs FNB vs Absa vs Nedbank


While the South African banking sector faces increasing competition from new digital entrants, a fierce battle continues between the ‘legacy’ institutions.

Known as the “big five,” these companies are moving beyond retail offerings, offering a full-service portfolio of credit, loans, wealth management and other services, while fending off new digital entrants to the market, including TymeBank, Discovery Bank, and Bank Zero.

So which of these institutions — Capitec, Standard Bank, Absa, FirstRand, or Nedbank — ranks highest, or is the largest? It depends on the category.

BusinessTech looked at the most recent annual financial reports (as of 2021/22) and compared the five major banks on 12 key metrics – from financial performance to network and reach.

The data below covers both group and South African operations – for example, group data was used for employees and finance, while South African data was used for customer numbers. FNB is represented by FirstRand Group, but the figures used FNB branches and ATMs. Stock prices, market cap and P/E rations were taken from Bloomberg data.

The data relates to the following reporting periods:

  • FirstRand – FY 2022 (ending in June)
  • Capitec – FY 2022 (ending in February)
  • Absa – FY 2021 (ending in December)
  • Nedbank – FY 2021 (ending in December)
  • Standard Bank FY 2021 (ending December)

Market capitalization and P/E ratio

In 2017, Capitec had the smallest market cap of the five major retail banks, but has since risen to the third largest based on this metric,

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FirstRand, meanwhile, has cemented its position as the most valuable bank on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange.

When it comes to stock price, Capitec far outperforms its competitors. The group shot past R1,000 per share in 2018 and is now close to R1,775 per share. However, this also makes it the most expensive when looking at the price/earnings (P/E) ratio, almost double the next in line.

The P/E ratio is the ratio for valuing a company that measures its current share price relative to its earnings per share. The ‘cheapest’ stock among the banks is Absa, with a P/E of 6.59.

Bank Market capitalization Share price P/E ratio
FirstRand (FNB) R361.2 billion R65.16 11.61
Standard Sofa R244.4 billion R148.31 8.26
captaincy R207.1 billion R1 774.08 24.08
Absa Bank R151.2 billion R182.39 6.59
Nedbank R108.2 billion R213.24 8.19

Group finance

Standard Bank is the highest-earning institution among local banks, with a total income of R123.1 billion. After the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020 and 2021, banks have slowly resumed their business operations and are back on track.

However, when we compare year-over-year income and earnings data, it’s easy to see that the recovery is in full swing.

While Standard Bank is the largest revenue generator, FirstRand maintained its top position in terms of total revenue.

The income reflects both interest and non-interest income for the respective banks. Headline revenue is a measure of a company’s earnings based solely on operating and capital investment activities. It does not include income that may be related to staff cuts, asset sales or accounting write-offs.

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In total earnings per share, Capitec is the clear leader by some margin.

Bank Income header income HEPS (cent)
Standard Sofa R123.1 billion R25.0 billion 1 573
Absa Bank R85.91 billion R18.6 billion 2 197
FirstRand (FNB) R81.92 billion R32.8 billion 585
Nedbank R51.78 billion R11.7 billion 2 410
captaincy R23.45 billion R8.4 billion 7 300

Core capital

The Banker’s top 1000 banks report is based on a measure of a bank’s Tier 1 capital – known as core capital, which consists of equity capital and retained earnings.

South Africa’s banking sector is once again led by Standard Bank, which maintains its position as the country’s largest bank in terms of capital measurement. This is followed by FirstRand, which, in addition to maintaining second place, was also the biggest winner of the past 12 months.

Bank Tier 1 capital ($ million)
Standard Sofa $11 727
FirstRand (FNB) $10 464
Absa Bank $8 238
Nedbank $887
captaincy $2 027

Reach and network

As banks accelerate their digital transformation, physical branches and ATM networks are moving in the opposite direction. Where branches are not completely closed, the space they now occupy is actively reduced.

In the post-Covid-19 era, the digital drive has continued to gain momentum, while physical points of presence have also been dented. Despite this, South Africa’s banks are still scattered across the country.

The banks have made it clear that physical presence is still essential for serving customers. Branches and ATMs are still key to operations.

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Standard Bank has the most physical branches of the big five, while Absa has the most ATMs.

Bank Staff members Branches ATMs
Standard Sofa 49 224 1 042 6 600
FirstRand (FNB) 38 221 604 4 774
Absa Bank 35 267 1 007 8 668
Nedbank 26 861 538 4 261
captaincy 14 758 853 7 187


Capitec has made headlines over the years for its strong growth and now sits comfortably as the nation’s largest retail bank in terms of active retail customers. At the end of the last financial year, the group had 18.1 million active customers.

Having millions of customers is a goal for all groups to achieve financial goals, but thanks to social networking and big data capabilities, customer satisfaction has become a valued measure of success.

The latest South African Consumer Satisfaction Index for the country’s retail banks, Nedbank customers were found to be happiest with their services, while Absa and Standard Bank lagged behind.

Capitec was not included in the 2022 ranking, but its customers have historically been fairly satisfied with the bank.

Bank Active Private Clients SA (FY2021/22) Customer satisfaction (2022)
captaincy 18.1 million Not judged
Standard Sofa 10.2 million 81.1
Absa Bank 9.6 million 77.0
FirstRand (FNB) 9.1 million 79.8
Nedbank 6.4 million 81.9

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