Is My Bank Healthy?
Thanks to deposit insurance, most consumers don't need to worry about their bank's financial condition, but some people should be generally aware of their bank's strength.
At one time or another you've probably asked yourself: "Is my bank healthy?" Fortunately, most consumers don't need to worry about their bank's financial condition if their funds are deposited in an FDIC-insured institution and are within the $100,000 federal limit. Most banks are very healthy now and aren't in danger of failing. Even so, there are some consumers who should try to be aware of their bank's stability, even if the institution is federally insured. Among them:
- Consumers or businesses that have chosen to deposit more than the $100,000 insurance limit and thus could lose some of their money in a bank failure;
- Business owners concerned that if their bank fails they will temporarily lose their "line of credit" (a way for companies to quickly borrow money up to a pre-arranged limit) until they can find a new lender;
- People who own stock in a bank and risk losing their investment if the institution fails; and
- Administrators of employee benefit plans, such as pension or profit-sharing plans, who deposit funds at banks. (See Keeping Workers' Nest Eggs Safe
Predicting when or if a bank will fail is tricky business, especially if you're not a trained financial analyst. Basic data for each federally insured bank and savings institution can be obtained free of charge at www.fdic.gov/bank/individual/index.html on
the FDIC's Web site or, for a fee, it can be ordered by calling 800-945-2186.
The average person may have difficulty understanding this financial information.
The FDIC does, however, make available a list of private companies that provide
their ratings and analyses of individual banks and savings institutions, often
for a fee. If you don't have access to the Internet at your home or office, your
local library or a friend or relative with Internet access can print out the
list for you.
You may wonder why the FDIC and the other banking regulators don't give out their ratings that indicate whether an individual bank is in good shape or not. It's because the government tries to get ailing banks to correct their problems and return to health. Disclosing the name of an institution having financial troubles could cause nervous depositors to remove their funds and, in turn, trigger bank failures that could have been prevented. "The FDIC is very strict about who has access to the regulators' bank ratings," says Serena Owens, an examination specialist with the FDIC's Division of Supervision in Washington. "Even FDIC employees can't get rating information on individual banks unless they need it to do their jobs."