NEW YORK: Many of the world's biggest banking brands increased in value last year, as the sector began to recover following the recession.

Consultancy BrandFinance estimated the largest 500 assets in the category registered a $139bn (€100.7bn; £85.8bn) uptick on this measure, with 78% of the improvement attributable to the top 100.

The number of US companies featured in the list rose from 85 to 90 annually, and this group recorded a 23% lift in their collective net worth, to $231bn.

Bank of America led the charts, posting $30.6bn, measured against $26bn during the previous 12 months.

Among the contributors to this shift was the organisation's decision to modify 285,000 loans, backing consumer protection legislation and heighten its emphasis on corporate social responsibility in 2010.

"Our vision is to be recognized as the finest financial services firm in the world," said Anne Finucane, Bank of America's global strategy and marketing officer.

"In today's new reality, that has little to do with simply quarterly earnings or a marketing budget - it's about being resilient and focused on the issues that matter most to consumers and communities."

Wells Fargo was in second place, growing from $21.9bn to $28.9bn, and Dave King, its svp, enterprise marketing, argued commercial messages must be supported by actual performance.

"It's about expressing our commitments through all communication channels and delivering on those commitments in customers' experiences with us," he said.

"If those things are in place consistently over the years, then you have a good chance to build a strong brand."

HSBC fell from first to third following a decline surpassing $2bn to $26.2bn, while Spain's Santander logged a parallel rise to $26.2bn, after buying and rebranding various operators in nations like the UK and Brazil.

"We still had some very valuable brands in the group such as Alliance & Leicester, but they have now changed to Santander," said María Sánchez del Corral, its head, global branding, marketing and corporate advertising.

"One strong brand is good in terms of efficiency."

This is proved by the fact Santander achieved cost savings of 22% concerning its ad budget, even as UK awareness expanded from 20% three years ago to 98% at present.

Elsewhere in the BrandFinance rankings, Chase took fifth, jumping roughly $5bn to $19bn.

Bradesco, based in Brazil, demonstrated the hardening strength of emerging market players, climbing three places to sixth, yielding $18.7bn.

"The appreciation of the Bradesco brand value is a result of the way the value of Brazil itself has appreciated," said Luiz Carlos Trabuco Cappi, Bradesco's ceo.

"We want to be close to the client and the non-client anywhere in terms of geography and also through any kind of remote access, whether the internet, or iPad or iPhone."

Itaú, another Brazilian venture, saw figures improve $9.7bn to $16.7bn and ascended from 11th to 25th place, primarily as a consequence of its purchase and rebranding of Unibanco.

ICBC, headquartered in China and boasting a retail presence in the US, leapt four spots to eighth with $17.2bn, and the China Construction Bank completed the top ten on $17.1bn.

This largely matched the ratings of $17.1bn for Citi and Barclays' $17.4bn, as both multinationals generated increases year-on-year.

Data sourced from The Banker; additional content by Warc staff