Recent studies have stressed the importance of privatization and openness to foreign competition for bank efficiency and economic growth. We study bank efficiency in Turkey, an emerging economy with great heterogeneity in bank types and ownership structures. Earlier studies of Turkish banking had three limitations: (i) excessive reliance on cost-function frontier analyses, wherein volume of loans is a measure of banking output; (ii) pooling all banks or imposing ad hoc heterogeneity assumptions; and (iii) lack of a comprehensive panel data set for proper analysis of productivity and heterogeneity. We use an estimation–classification procedure to find likelihood-driven classification of bank technologies in an 11-year panel. In addition, we augment traditional cost-frontier analysis with a labour-efficiency analysis. We conclude that state banks are not particularly inefficient overall, but that they do utilize labour inefficiently. This partially supports recent calls for privatization. We also conclude that special finance houses (or Islamic banks) utilize the same technology as conventional domestic banks, and do so relatively efficiently. This suggests that they do not cause harm to the financial system. Finally, we conclude that foreign banks utilize a different technology from domestic ones. This suggests that one should not overstate their value to the financial sector. Copyright © 2005 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.