Q:

What are the biggest banks in the United Kingdom?

A:

The biggest retail banks in the United Kingdom are HSBC, Lloyds Banking Group, Royal Bank of Scotland Group and Barclays. Collectively these banks are sometimes referred to as the "Big Four."

Since the early 20th century, British banking has been highly consolidated. The U.K. banking industry is a very significant part of the U.K. economy, and HSBC is the second largest bank in the world. Lloyd's Banking Group started in 1765 as Lloyds Bank, the fourth oldest bank in the United Kingdom. Before the 2008 stock market collapse, RBS Group was for a short time the largest bank in the world and for some time was the second largest bank in the U.K. and Europe. As of Dec. 31, 2011, Barclays was the seventh-largest bank worldwide.

The Big Four have a combined market share of more than 75 percent of U.K. consumer and small business accounts. The Competition and Markets Authority, a government department in the United Kingdom charged with regulating business competition and preventing anti-competitive activities, launched an investigation in 2014 into the accounts for consumers and small businesses. The CMA found that structural remedies should be considered and indicated that these remedies could lead to the breakup of the U.K.'s biggest banks. The banks responded that this would be very expensive and would restrict their lending ability.

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