London and the UK are among the world’s leading financial centres. But, how many banks currently operate there, and in what do they specialise?
In the following sections, we review the top 10 list of banks in the UK and provide brief info on other types of banking providers.
Let’s get to it!
If you are looking for the top names of banks in the UK, you’ll definitely find them below, as we’ve only reviewed the country’s most prominent and respected financial institutions.
HSBC is not only the largest name on our list of banks in the UK but also Europe’s biggest banking institution in terms of assets (close to $3 trillion) and the 7th largest in the world!
While it was founded in 1865 in Hong Kong, HSBC Holdings reestablished itself in its current form in London and currently operates in several banking groups:
As of 2021, HSBC operates over 500 across the UK and its nearby Crown Dependencies.
Any UK bank list must also include the Lloyds Banking Group, which became the second-largest UK banking institution with the 2009 merger of HBOS and Lloyds TSB.
Headquartered in London, the Lloyds Banking Group offers its portfolio of services via four experienced subsidiaries: Halifax, Bank of Scotland, Lloyds Bank, and Scottish Widows.
In addition to its UK-heavy presence, the LBG also does business overseas and offers everything from private equity to retail, commercial, and corporate banking.
On the other hand, individual consumers can access all kinds of standard banking services, including checking accounts, insurance, pensions, and wealth management benefits.
This major retail and commercial bank is one of the most significant subsidiaries of the NatWest Group and the largest institution of its kind in Scotland.
While seated in Edinburgh and has over 700 branches all over Scotland, the RBS also maintains offices across England, providing its full set of banking services to individuals, businesses, and corporations, including traditional and insurance products.
In addition to brick-and-mortar branches and modern phone and internet services, the RBS also operates 19 mobile units in the form of vans visiting specific locations for up to 5 days a week to offer standard services such as making deposits and withdrawing cash.
As part of the ‘Big Four’ names of UK banks, Barclays is one of England’s oldest banks (17th century) with an extensive reach and level of popularity in the UK.
Although situated in London, Barclays is a multinational universal bank operating in over 40 countries and is deemed one of the world’s systemically important financial institutions (SIFI).
The Barclays UK division is in charge of the British retail banking operations for individuals and small, medium, and large UK businesses, offering everything from credit cards (Barclaycard) to traditional loans, investments, and wealth management services.
Note: Barclays was the bank that launched the first credit card in the UK in 1966 and a year later deployed the world’s first cash dispensing machine.
Next up on our UK private banks list is Standard Chartered—a vast multinational and universal banking provider situated in London but operating in over 70 countries worldwide.
However, while offering most corporate, business, and consumer banking products, including treasury services, Standard Chartered does not provide retail banking in the UK and instead makes most of its profits in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East.
While entirely owned by the Spanish Santander Group, Santander UK is still an autonomous British subsidiary that offers personal financial services to around 14 million Brits.
The bank’s 20,000 employees ensure that everyday customers access most retail services, including transaction accounts, mortgages, credit cards, and savings products.
Also, like most modern banking institutions, Santander UK offers the convenience of online and mobile banking via its internet-only division called cahoot.
Note: Santander UK’s Corporate and Commercial Banking sector operates 64 business centres that provide banking services to British businesses and corporations.
As the first mutual financial institution on our list of UK banks and building societies, the Nationwide Building Society has over 16 million members, making it the world’s largest institution of its kind.
In fact, Nationwide is a conglomerate of 250 different building societies that merged to become the UK’s second-largest provider of household savings and mortgages.
Despite its standard offering, this building society also delivers products such as ISAs, personal loans, credit cards, and insurance services, either directly or through one of its 700 branches around the country.
Schroders is another big name on the list of banks in London that has existed for more than 200 years, employs almost 6,000 people in 37 locations around the world, and currently focuses on investing assets across private and public markets for both individuals and businesses.
To ensure successful investments, Schroders relies on five areas of expertise: thorough knowledge of private markets, building diversified portfolios, access to investment intermediaries, institutional investment strategies, and wealth management.
As UK’s leading merchant banking group, Close Brothers offers various lending, trading securities, deposit taking, and wealth management services to Britain’s people and businesses looking to grow over the long term.
Moreover, the bulk of its activities is concerned with providing financing to individuals, insurance companies, retailers, and vehicle dealers, working closely with growing enterprises, and helping property developers.
The final entry on our list of banks in the UK is the Coventry Building Society—the second-largest UK building society with around 1.5 million savers and 350,000 borrowers.
Similar to Nationwide, this mutual fund provides a range of mortgage and savings services, as well as various financial planning, investment, and insurance products.
Furthermore, to stand out from the competition, the Coventry Building Society offers quick phone-in support, regularly donates to charity, and offers various loyalty rewards.
As of 2022, the UK financial sector houses more than 300 financial institutions of various types and sizes that operate as physical and online banks, private and government, domestic and international institutions, as well as numerous payment providers and traders.
These financial bodies offer their products and services to various clients, from private citizens, charities, and clubs to giant corporations and government agencies.
However, the UK is also the home of 43 building societies—smaller financial institutions wholly owned by their members and offering competitive consumer banking services like mortgage and savings accounts, with some even providing credit cards and personal loans.
Note: For more on the difference between traditional banks and building societies, click here.
The biggest private and commercial banks in the UK, such as Barclays, HSBC, and the Lloyds Banking Group, focus on individuals and corporations with high net worth. However, they (and other private bankers) also offer the full suite of standard banking services to the general public, including asset management, credit cards, insurance, and mortgage loans.
Other notable names on the UK private banks list include:
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Although fewer in number, the UK also has government-owned financial institutions whose missions revolve around maintaining the country’s monetary policy and financial stability and growing the national economy by helping the business sector.
However, the Bank of England—the country’s central bank and financial regulator—does not offer any consumer banking services as its main aim is to maintain stable market prices and confidence in the country’s currency and, in some cases, act as a lender of last resort.
On the other hand, the British Business Bank—another government-owned but independently-operated bank—helps SMBs by offering readily available financial services, such as loans and investments, through its 130+ financial partners across the country.
The list of banks in London has also been expanding, with many international banking institutions seeking to enjoy the advantages afforded by one of the world’s leading financial centres. The biggest international banks you can find in the UK include:
In recent years, innovative digital banks have been emerging to revolutionise the banking world by giving you total 24/7 control of your finances from the palm of your hand.
As an example, as of January 2021, 14 million Brits had a digital-only bank account.
The apps they offer often pack in a host of features to help you create and manage a budget plan, transfer money anywhere in the world with the click of a button, increase your savings, access various investment opportunities, and much more.
Some of the biggest names of UK digital banks that do all of the above includes:
You might be interested in: UK’s 10 Best Budgeting Apps to Help You Save
Below, you’ll find several alternatives to traditional banking services and review the various banking features that help you better manage your payments and finances.
These electronic banking outlets are typically installed outside brick-and-mortar banks and around large trading centres to provide customers with essential banking services, such as withdrawing or depositing money with their cash cards and checking their balances.
Note: As of May 2022, UK citizens had access to 52,258 cash machines, 78% of which were free to use, with the remainder requiring a subscription or payment.
With the rise of the e-commerce industry (87% of Brits shopped online in 2020), the online trading landscape precipitated a slew of convenient and cashless payment methods.
For example, depending on your location, the service you are using, and/or the products you are purchasing, you can expect to pay with one or more of the following methods:
The latest 2022 UK Payment Markets Summary released by UK Finance reveals that 57% of all 2021 payments were made by debit cards, while cash payments plummeted to 15%. Moreover, nearly a third of adult Brits (32%) were using a mobile payment service in 2021.
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On our list of UK banks and building societies, you won’t find any two institutions with identical fee schedules as the banking costs vary from provider to provider.
So our advice is to visit a bank’s website to see what they offer and how much they charge for the various products and services.
In general, while most standard accounts can be opened free of charge, some banks may enforce minor monthly or annual administration fees.
As for the various credit products, including cards and traditional loans, you can expect to pay the annual interest rates and additional balance transfer and maintenance fees.
On the other hand, when dealing with smaller and sketchier financial providers, you should also be on the lookout for hidden fees, such as exchange rates and late payment costs.
On any list of all popular UK banks, you may or may not find other types of financial institutions that offer a similar set of services as those provided by traditional bankers, including:
Note: The many modern digital banks also offer unconventional products and services to adapt to the changing needs of the e-commerce landscape and today’s consumers.
Hopefully, our list of banks in the UK sheds some light on the country’s banking providers and how they can help you manage your finances daily. Thankfully, you can find all kinds of financial institutions to fulfil your needs and wants, from virtual online banks that allow you to handle your money from your couch to experienced brick-and-mortar bankers.
My name is Marija, and I'm a financial writer at DontDisappointMe. Although finance might not be everyone's cup of tea, my 10+ years of working in one of the biggest banks in my country, and my interest in extensive research on everything finance/investment-related, have made me somewhat of an expert in the field (if I do say so myself). No longer having the passion to work in a corporate setting, I decided that I couldn't let all of this knowledge go to waste so I started writing. And, here I am! Today I try to share my knowledge with my audience in the hopes of making this topic as simple and interesting as possible. In my leisure time, I like spending time with my family and travelling to new locations.