Tuesday, June 11, 2024

What happens when a bank folds up?

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Adetunji Matthew
Adetunji Matthewhttp://www.aidthestudent.com
I’m Adetunji Matthew, an Economist, Social Media Manager, software Developer/Marketer Sales Consultant, and Ecompreneur. I’m popularly known as “Matt” As an artist and designer, I aim to create something brilliant daily. Eager to learn more, I use my free time to get better at w hat interests me, whether it's researching, teaching, or even something entirely new.
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A bank is a financial institution that accepts deposits from customers and uses the collected deposits to offer loans and investments to other institutions or high-net-worth individuals. Banks play a crucial role in the economy, providing credit and financing to businesses, governments, and individuals. However, like any business, banks can fail. When a bank fails, it can have significant consequences for depositors, investors, and the broader economy. In this article, we will take a quick look at some of these consequences and the legal framework that can help depositors in cases like this. 

Causes of bank failures

There are many reasons why a bank might fail. One common cause is a lack of liquidity. Banks need to have enough cash on hand to meet the demands of depositors who want to withdraw their money. If a bank has made too many loans or investments that have gone bad, or if it has experienced a sudden and unexpected withdrawal of deposits, it may not have enough cash to meet its obligations.

Another common cause of bank failures is insolvency. A bank is insolvent when its liabilities exceed its assets, meaning it owes more money than it has. This can happen if a bank has made too many bad loans or investments, or if it has experienced a significant decline in the value of its assets.

Other factors that can contribute to bank failures include poor management, fraud, and external shocks such as economic recessions or financial crises.

Also Read: Top 10 banks to open a domiciliary account in Nigeria

The regulatory framework for bank failures

To protect depositors and ensure the stability of the financial system, most countries have a regulatory framework for dealing with bank failures. In the United States, this framework is overseen by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC).

The FDIC is responsible for insuring deposits in banks and savings associations. If a bank fails, the FDIC steps in and takes over its operations. The FDIC may sell the failed bank’s assets to another institution, or it may operate the bank itself until a buyer can be found. In other countries, similar regulatory frameworks exist, but the specific details may vary.

In Nigeria, the Nigerian Deposit Insurance Commission undertakes a similar duty to the FDIC. 

The Effects of bank failures

Bank failures can have significant consequences for depositors, investors, and the broader economy. When a bank fails, depositors may lose some or all of their deposits. In the United States, the FDIC insures deposits up to $250,000 per depositor per insured bank. If a depositor has more than $250,000 in a single bank, they may lose some of their money.

Investors in the failed bank may also lose money. If the bank’s stock or bonds become worthless, investors may not be able to recoup their investment.

Bank failures can also have broader economic effects. If a large bank fails, it can cause panic in financial markets and lead to a broader economic downturn. In addition, if a bank fails, it may reduce the amount of credit available in the economy, which can further harm economic growth.

Also Read: Dividend: Meaning, types, how it works and more

Bankruptcy vs. receivership

In some cases, a failed bank may be able to file for bankruptcy and reorganize its operations. However, this is less common than receivership, which is the process of a regulatory agency taking over the bank’s operations.

Bankruptcy can be a lengthy and complicated process, and it may not be practical for a financial institution that needs to continue operating. Receivership allows the regulatory agency to step in and immediately take control of the bank’s assets and operations, which can help to minimize the disruption to depositors and the broader financial system.

How bank failures affect the broader economy

When a bank fails, it can have ripple effects throughout the broader economy. One potential impact is a credit crunch, where lending slows down as banks become more risk-averse. This can make it harder for businesses and individuals to access credit, which can slow down economic growth.

A bank failure can lead to a loss of confidence in the financial system, which can lead to panic and a run on other banks. This can lead to further bank failures and exacerbate the impact on the economy.

In extreme cases, a bank failure can trigger a systemic financial crisis, as was seen in the 2008 financial crisis. This can have severe consequences for the economy, including high unemployment, a drop in GDP, and long-lasting damage to the financial system.

Also Read: 6 Ways to improve financial literacy

Lessons learned from bank failures 

Over the years, there have been many high-profile bank failures, including Lehman Brothers in 2008 and Washington Mutual in 2009. These failures have led to changes in the regulatory framework for dealing with bank failures and have also provided valuable lessons for the financial industry.

One lesson is the importance of adequate capitalization. Banks need to have enough capital to absorb losses from bad loans or investments. If a bank has too little capital, it may not be able to weather a downturn in the economy or a sudden withdrawal of deposits.

Another lesson is the importance of risk management. Banks need to have effective risk management practices in place to identify and mitigate potential risks. This includes monitoring the creditworthiness of borrowers, diversifying their loan and investment portfolios, and maintaining adequate liquidity.

Also, there is a need for transparency and disclosure. Investors and depositors need to have access to accurate and timely information about the financial health of banks. This can help to prevent surprises and reduce the risk of panic in financial markets.


Bank failures can have significant consequences for depositors, investors, and the broader economy. However, regulatory frameworks exist to help mitigate the risks and minimize the impact of bank failures. Lessons learned from past bank failures have led to improvements in the regulatory framework and risk management practices in the financial industry.

Despite these efforts, it is still possible for banks to fail, and depositors and investors need to be aware of the risks. It is important to choose a reputable bank with a strong financial position and to diversify investments to reduce the risk of losses. Additionally, it is important to stay informed about the financial health of banks and to take appropriate action if there are signs of trouble.

Also Read: How to pay off debt and earn financial freedom

Frequently Asked Questions 

What happens to depositors when a bank fails?

Depositors may lose some or all of their deposits, but in many countries, including the US and Nigeria deposit insurance exists to protect depositors up to a certain amount.

What lessons have been learned from past bank failures?

Adequate capitalization, effective risk management, and transparency and disclosure are important lessons learned from past bank failures to help mitigate risks and minimize the impact of bank failures.


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