A full analysis would take more, but here is a little push if you want to get started. Assets under custody with leading global custodians grew by double-digit percentages – yet their fee revenue definitely didn’t.

Several custodians have seen their groups’ fourth-quarter earnings posted this past week, or the week before. A quick glance appears to support a previously made observation: the total of fees that custodians can charge their clients is not growing anywhere near as fast as the mountain of assets that they are safekeeping does.

Assets under custody, USD tnFee income, USD bn
End of 2020End of 2019Change, %20202019Change, %
BNY Mellon41.137.11112.713.2-4Source
State Street38.834.4135.25.12Source
JP Morgan31.026.815Source
Citi 23.6*2.5-3Source
*) Citi’s asset figure is from this 20 Nov 2020 press release, casually citing ”over $23.6 trillion”.

Actors that you would find further down if the table was longer would include BNP Paribas and Northern Trust, each with roughly half the assets under custody compared with Citi. Then HSBC, SGSS and many others.

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(Relating fees to assets this way, we should perhaps note that they are not perfectly correlated in timing. Assets at the end of 2020 were measured as stock markets were essentially at their all time high, while the full year that produced the fees also included the biggest stock market plunge since the 2007–2008 financial crisis. Thus, fees 2020 in relation to the year’s average AuC may, reasonably, look more favourable.)

Numbers are possibly far from comparable on equal terms between the actors; assume they may be FX-adjusted or not; including “under administration” or not; have certain income lines included or not etc, you wouldn’t have time to read this article if we sorted it all out.