Royal Bank of Scotland, the world's biggest bank six years ago, continues to slide down the global league as Chinese banks power ahead, according to The Banker's latest ranking of Top 1000 banks.

RBS was in 53 countries with 200,000 employees in 2009, and claimed to be biggest by size. It has now slipped from 15th to 18th in the table, which is measured on financial strength.

Restructuring helped weigh other UK banks too, with HSBC falling from fifth place to ninth, and Barclays from 12th to 13th.

Brian Caplen, editor of The Banker, said: "At one time several UK banks were among a handful of truly global players. But since the financial crisis they have reduced their scope and are focussing on a fewer areas in a bid to restore profitability. We may have seen the end of the UK-based global bank."

By contrast, UK banks which focus only on the domestic market are holding steady - Lloyds stayed in 22nd position and Nationwide rose from 119 to 105.

Chinese banks continue to improve their position. ICBC, with whom Standard Life has a partnership, topped the ranking for the third year in a row and China has three other banks in the top six. China Construction Bank held onto second place, Bank of China moved from seventh to fourth, and Agricultural Bank of China from ninth to sixth.

Chinese banks were also the most profitable, collectively making 1.75 times the amount US banks make and almost 10 times UK profits. In 2008 UK banks made more than Chinese banks.

Profits and returns at UK banks are slowly recovering although they are still only a third of their peak performance in 2007. Return on capital is 7.31per cent - against 4.61per cent for eurozone banks more than doubling their profits