Americas 10 Biggest Banks Right Now

By John

With the fourth-quarter earnings season coming to a close, it's time to update the list of the 10 biggest banks in America. Without further ado, here it is:

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JPMorgan Chase maintained its position atop the industry, with $2.5 trillion worth of assets. That seems big, but if you also factor in the assets that JPMorgan administers for institutional investors, and are thus not on JPMorgan's balance sheet, the figure climbs to $23 trillion.

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Bank of America retained its position at No. 2. This isn't likely to change anytime soon, as it's neither aggressively growing its asset base nor contracting it.

The one bank that could eventually challenge Bank of America for its slot is Wells Fargo, which just last year eclipsed Citigroup to become the third biggest U.S. bank. Wells Fargo has benefited from its prudence going into the financial crisis, which enabled it to more than double in size thanks to its 2008 acquisition of Wachovia.

Citigroup found itself in the exact opposite situation. After going into the crisis as the biggest bank in America, Citigroup had to change course. It's since aggressively scaled back its operations to raise capital and simplify its operations.

Image source: Getty Images.

Outside the big four banks, U.S. Bancorp retained its rank as the nation's largest regional bank. Based in Minneapolis, U.S. Bancorp is arguably better positioned than any of these banks to outperform the industry in the years ahead.

U.S. Bancorp is big enough to benefit from economies of scale, which is one of the reasons it's such an efficient bank. Yet it's small enough to avoid the more onerous regulatory environment confronting its multitrillion-dollar peers.

Also on the list are regional banks PNC Financial, BB&T, and Capital One Financial, the last of which was once a monoline credit card company before acquiring its way into the regional banking space.

Finally, the two biggest custodial banks in the country make the list, too -- Bank of New York Mellon and State Street. These institutions are unique because most of their size comes, not unlike JPMorgan Chase, from the fact that they administer assets for other institutions. To this end, each of these banks has more than $30 trillion worth of assets under custody, administration, or management.

Ultimately, when it comes to investing in bank stocks, there are both positive and negative aspects that accompany size, as I noted with respect to U.S. Bancorp. How these aspects balance out is institution-specific and is something investors should look into before buying any of these stocks.

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John Maxfield owns shares of Bank of America, US Bancorp, and Wells Fargo. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.