A bar chart showing the world's five most valuable bank brands.

Data source: BrandFinance. Chart by author.

At different times throughout history, public sentiment has turned against America's biggest banks. Big banks are dangerous and must be broken up, many people believe. At the very least, they shouldn't be allowed to get any larger.

But the problem with this argument is that by throttling the growth of American banks, the summit of global finance is ceded to institutions in other countries. In fact, the biggest bank in China, the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, or ICBC, is already roughly a third larger than the biggest bank in the United States, JPMorgan Chase, when measured by the size of their balance sheets.

And it's not just rote size where U.S. banks have begun to lag behind their counterparts in the East Asian country. The same is true when it comes to brand value.

ICBC is now the world's most valuable bank brand, says BrandFinance. Problems at Wells Fargo over the past year -- it was caught opening as many as two million fake accounts for customers -- caused the California-based bank to fall from the top spot last year.

When the White House talks about the importance of enabling American financial companies to compete more effectively with firms abroad, as the President did in a recent executive order targeting the Dodd-Frank Act, these trends are probably what he and his team have in mind.

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