In the first nine months of 2005, the top ten Italian banks made profits of 8,625 million. This is compared to 5,520 million in the same period in 2004. Although a large amount of this profit has come from capital gains, more than 25 per cent has been generated from the business of banking.
Italians pay more for private banking services than any other nation in the European Union the average annual cost of a bank account in Italy is 252, compared to an average 130 elsewhere in the EU.
Since 1998, the increase in the cost of maintaining a bank account has been gradual and well above the rate of inflation; however, that does not explain the unusually high profits in 2005. The reason seems to be that Italians are learning how to borrow money, taking out mortgages to buy property and using credit cards. As this use of credit is a relative novelty for Italian families, the amount of their debt is still small. The trend is certain to continue and Italian banks will continue to make large gains. Less likely however is the possibility of them lowering their charges and improving the services they offer.