Forrester Research, B.V. (Nasdaq: FORR) today declared Swiss banks Credit Suisse and UBS the leaders in Europe’s online retail banking, with the French Banque Directe and BNP Paribas respectively running a close third and fourth.

“The Swiss banks shine through with comprehensive, integrated offerings,” commented Brian Gross, analyst at Forrester’s European headquarters in Amsterdam. “Consistently integrating a gamut of products and services with useful tools like portfolio analyzers, these sites come closest to what it will take to win the battle for customers in Europe’s online banking war.”

Forrester rated the main retail Web sites of Europe’s 25 largest retail banks plus their spin-offs, and six smaller Web leaders — ranking a total of 40 individual Web-based operations. Within the top 10, four of Europe’s top-performing banking sites behind the Swiss and French are German — Advance Bank, Commerzbank and Deutsche Bank each tie for sixth place, with Direkt Anlage Bank sharing tenth spot with Italy’s Banca 121. Barclays is the UK’s only entrant in the top 10, again sharing sixth place, but trailing Finland’s Merita Bank, part of the Nordea Group.

“Competition in online banking has become cutthroat,” noted Gross. “Most banks are proud that they have brought payments and statements to the Internet, but this is no time for them to sit back and bask in their achievements. Net banking is now reaching mainstream customers, who are starting to trade online and congregate at financial portals. Spin-off banks from insurers, brokers, financial media, and, of course, foreign banks are biting at the established banks’ heels to steal these customers.

“This is nothing less than a war for survival. Even though Europe’s top 25 banks are each pouring hundreds of millions of euros into eCommerce, not all of them will convert their offline strength into online strength.”

Forrester asserts that many of Europe’s incumbent banks will not succeed in competing with financial portals, brokerages, and insurers to become what it calls “attracters” — destination sites that orchestrate the overall financial needs of their customers. Forrester advises that in order to retain consumers, banks must offer integrated, easy-to-use sites that are rich in content and have powerful financial planning tools — and begin to offer what it terms “Personal Finance Management.”

“The coming years will see the leading banks move towards Personal Finance Management — sites that are personalized, synchronized across multiple channels, and that offer holistic financial planning as well as a rich product offering. This will include such features as account aggregation, online advice, and a product selection from an array of suppliers,” Gross concluded.