Signs to Know if Your Bank is Facing Distress

By Ajibola Olarinoye


As a bank customer, it is very important to know the health status of your bank. Between 2008 and 2012, bank failures in the United States were up to an average of 93 per year. 

Out of the total 565 bank failures from 2000 to 2023, 465 (representing 82 percent) were recorded between 2008–2012. The rate at which banks failed hit a peak in 2010 at 157 in just one year.

Massive assets are lost when banks collapse, and this affects the country’s economy. For instance, about 209 billion U.S. dollars worth of assets were lost when Silicon Valley Bank collapsed in 2023. 

It should be noted that the collapse was the second-largest bank failure in the history of the US. The largest collapse happened at Washington Mutual in 2008.

In today’s volatile economic climate, it is crucial to be aware of the signs that your bank may be facing distress.

This article will provide you with valuable insights into how to identify these warning signals so that you can protect your finances and make informed decisions about your banking relationships.

What is Bank Distress?

Bank distress refers to the financial difficulties a bank may face due to various factors, such as poor management, economic downturns, or regulatory issues

Read Also: Investment Banks vs Merchant Banks: The Similarities and Differences

When a bank is in distress, it may struggle to meet its financial obligations and may require intervention to avoid closure. If you look at the bank distress definition, it means that a bank is in murky waters. 

Is Your Bank’s Financial Health in Trouble?

Banks are financial institutions that play a crucial role in the economy by providing a safe place for people to deposit their money and access credit. 

However, like any business, banks can face financial challenges that may impact their stability and the safety of their funds. You may ask this question: what are causes of bank distress? 

How can you tell if the bank you are using is in distress?

Here Are Some Signs to Look Out for:

1: Deteriorating Financial Performance

One of the most obvious signs of a bank in distress is a decline in its financial performance. This can manifest in various ways, such as decreasing profits, increasing loan losses, or a decline in asset quality.

If you notice a consistent downward trend in the bank’s financial metrics, it could be a red flag that the institution is facing difficulties. 

A significant drop in a bank’s stock price can be a clear indication that investors are losing confidence in the bank’s ability to perform well financially.

2: Staff Layoffs or Branch Closures:

Cost-cutting measures such as staff layoffs or branch closures are often implemented by banks that are struggling financially. Banks in distress find it difficult to cope with operational costs. 

If you observe a pattern of downsizing at your bank, it may be a sign that management is trying to reduce expenses to compensate for declining revenues.

3: Rising Non-performing Loans: Non-performing loans are loans that borrowers have failed to repay for an extended period, indicating financial strain on the part of the borrowers.

 A high level of non-performing loans on a bank’s balance sheet can signal that the institution is at risk of financial distress. Keep an eye on the bank’s loan portfolio to see if there is a spike in non-performing loans.

4: Lack of liquidity: liquidity refers to a bank’s ability to meet its short-term obligations without incurring significant losses.

 A bank facing distress may struggle to maintain adequate levels of liquidity, leading to difficulties in fulfilling customer withdrawals and other obligations.

If you encounter issues accessing your funds or notice frequent delays in transactions, it could be a sign that your bank is experiencing liquidity problems.

5: Regulatory Actions: Regulatory authorities closely monitor the financial health and stability of banks to ensure depositor protection and maintain the overall integrity of the financial system. 

If you see your bank facing regulatory scrutiny, such as enforcement actions or sanctions, it could indicate underlying financial difficulties that have caught the attention of regulators.

6: Changes in Management: A sudden turnover in key executive positions or a spate of resignations within the bank’s management team could be a sign of internal turmoil and potential financial distress. 

Leadership instability can disrupt the bank’s operations and decision-making processes, indicating underlying issues that may impact its financial health.

What Should You Do if You Suspect Your Bank is in Trouble?

If you believe that the bank you are using is in distress, it’s important to take action to protect your finances. Here are some steps you can take:

1: Monitor Your Accounts. Keep a close eye on your bank accounts and statements for any unusual activity or unauthorized transactions.

2: Diversify Your Holdings: Consider spreading your money across multiple banks to reduce your exposure to any one bank’s financial troubles.

4: Stay Informed: Keep up-to-date on news about the banking industry and the specific bank you are using. Pay attention to any announcements or reports that could indicate financial trouble.

5: Contact Your Bank. If you have concerns about your bank’s financial health, don’t hesitate to reach out to them for clarification. 

You can ask about their current financial situation and any steps they are taking to address problems.

6 Consider Alternative Banking Options: If you are concerned about your bank’s financial stability, it may be wise to explore other banking options and consider moving your funds to a more stable institution.


Being aware of the signs that a bank is in distress is crucial for safeguarding your finances. 

By staying vigilant, monitoring your accounts, and taking proactive steps, you can better protect yourself in the event that your bank runs into trouble. 

Remember, it’s always better to play safe in the aspect  of your hard earned money.

Frequently Asked Questions About Bank Distress

How are banks regulated to prevent distress?

Banks are regulated by governmental agencies such as the Federal Reserve, FDIC, or OCC in the United States to ensure they adhere to strict financial, operational, and risk management standards.

In Nigeria, banks are regulated by the Central Bank of Nigeria and the Nigeria Deposit Insurance Corporation. Those regulatory bodies help in 

bank distress management

How does bank distress affect customers?

When a bank is in distress, customers may experience limitations on withdrawals, delays in processing transactions, or even loss of funds in extreme cases. It is essential for customers to stay informed about their bank’s financial health to protect their assets.

That’s why it is very important to patronize only banks that are regulated and insured by an agency like FDIC in the US. For instance, since 1933, no customer has lost a dime of FDIC-insured funds. 

Can a bank in distress be saved?

In some cases, a bank in distress can be saved through various measures such as capital injections, restructuring, mergers, or acquisitions. 

However, the success of these interventions depends on the severity of the bank’s distress and the efficiency of the regulatory framework in place.

These regulations aim to safeguard the stability of the financial system and protect depositors’ funds.

How does bank distress affect the economy?

Bank distress can have far-reaching effects on the economy. When a bank fails, it can lead to a loss of confidence in the financial system, causing a ripple effect that impacts other banks and financial institutions. 

This can result in a credit crunch, making it more difficult for businesses and individuals to access capital and credit, which can stifle economic growth. For instance, consequences of bank distress during the great depression were very intense. 

Is my money safe in a bank that is experiencing distress?

In most cases, your money is safe in a bank that is experiencing distress. Banks are typically insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) up to a certain amount, which means that your deposits are protected even if the bank fails. 

However, it’s always a good idea to stay informed about the financial health of your bank and to take appropriate precautions to protect your assets.

Author: pqrmedia
I am a professional journalists with years of experience. My aim in life is to educate people through well researched contents

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