When a bank fails, it’s a big deal. It doesn’t just affect the people who put their money in the bank or those who invest in it. It can also mess up the economy. A bank fails when it can’t pay its bills, and that causes a lot of problems.

When a bank fails, it’s because it doesn’t have enough money to give back to the people who put their money in the bank or to fulfill its other financial promises. When this happens, the government might step in and close the bank. This causes problems for a lot of different people involved with the bank.

Bank failures are risky because they can make people lose money and worry investors. To deal with these risks, we need to know how depositors are protected and what’s done to lessen the damage when a bank fails. If we know about these protections, we can make smart choices to keep our money safe.

What You’ll Learn

You’ll learn important things and skills to help you understand and deal with bank failures and what they mean.

  • Understanding the causes of bank failures.
  • Knowledge of regulatory frameworks for bank failures.
  • Awareness of depositor protection measures.
  • Insight into the effects of bank failures on the economy.
  • Recognition of the importance of choosing reputable banks and diversifying investments.

Causes Of Bank Failures

Banks can fail for many reasons, like bad management or problems with the economy. Knowing why banks fail is important so we can spot problems early and take steps to stop them. Here are some usual reasons why banks fail:

Lack Of Liquidity And Insolvency

Banks must maintain sufficient liquidity to meet the demands of depositors who wish to withdraw their funds. When a bank lacks liquidity, it may be unable to honor withdrawal requests, leading to a loss of depositor confidence and potential insolvency. insolvency occurs when a bank’s liabilities exceed its assets, rendering it incapable of fulfilling its financial obligations. Inadequate liquidity management and risky lending practices can leave banks vulnerable to sudden liquidity crises, ultimately resulting in insolvency.

Poor Management, Fraud, And External Economic Shocks

Weak corporate governance, inadequate risk management practices, and fraudulent activities within banks can contribute to their downfall. Additionally, external economic shocks such as recessions or financial crises can exacerbate existing vulnerabilities. Poor management decisions, fraudulent activities, and economic downturns can erode a bank’s profitability, weaken its balance sheet, and undermine investor and depositor confidence.

The collapse of Savannah Bank in Nigeria serves as a stark reminder of the consequences of poor management and regulatory oversight. The bank’s failure, attributed to mismanagement and insider abuses, left depositors and businesses stranded.

What Are The Regulatory Measures In Place?

The banking sector needs strong rules to keep it stable and honest. These rules are made to protect people’s money, keep the financial system safe, and make sure people trust banks. In Nigeria, two important organizations, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the Nigeria Deposit Insurance Corporation (NDIC), are responsible for making and enforcing these rules, as well as keeping an eye on banks to make sure they follow them.

Role Of The Central Bank Of Nigeria (CBN)

The CBN serves as the primary regulatory authority responsible for overseeing the operations of banks and other financial institutions in Nigeria. It formulates and implements policies and regulations to maintain the safety and soundness of the banking system.

In addition to its regulatory functions, the CBN is tasked with formulating and implementing monetary policies to achieve price stability and promote economic growth. It regulates the money supply, sets interest rates, and manages foreign exchange reserves.

During times of financial distress, the CBN acts as a lender of last resort, providing liquidity support to banks facing liquidity shortages. This helps to stabilize the financial system and prevent systemic crises.

Role Of The Nigeria Deposit Insurance Corporation (NDIC)

The NDIC runs the Deposit Insurance Scheme (DIS) in Nigeria. This scheme protects depositors if a bank fails. It guarantees to pay back a certain amount of money to depositors, which makes people feel more confident about putting their money in banks and helps keep the financial system steady.

In collaboration with the CBN, the NDIC conducts regular examinations and supervision of banks to ensure compliance with regulations and sound banking practices. It assesses the financial health and risk management practices of banks to mitigate potential risks.

In cases where banks fail or are at risk of failure, the NDIC plays a key role in the resolution process. It may intervene to protect depositors’ interests, facilitate the sale or transfer of assets and liabilities, and ensure the orderly winding down or restructuring of failed banks.

Deposit Insurance Scheme (DIS)

The Deposit Insurance Scheme (DIS) administered by the Nigeria Deposit Insurance Corporation (NDIC) provides a safety net for depositors by guaranteeing the repayment of insured deposits in the event of bank failures.

The DIS insures deposits up to specified limits, offering protection to individual depositors and promoting depositors’ confidence in the banking system. The insured limit varies depending on the type of bank, with different limits for Deposit Money Banks (DMBs), Primary Mortgage Banks (PMBs), and Microfinance Banks (MFBs).

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Prudential Guidelines (PG)

The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) issues Prudential Guidelines (PG) to deposit money banks to promote the stability of the financial system and protect depositors’ interests.

These guidelines set forth regulatory standards and requirements that banks must adhere to, including capital adequacy, liquidity management, risk management, corporate governance, and asset quality. The CBN conducts regular examinations and supervision to ensure that banks comply with the PG and maintain sound banking practices, thereby reducing the risk of bank failures and protecting depositors’ funds.

Cash Reserve Ratio (CRR)

The Cash Reserve Ratio (CRR) is a monetary policy tool used by the CBN to regulate the amount of funds banks must hold as reserves with the central bank. By adjusting the CRR, the CBN can influence the liquidity levels in the banking system, control inflation, and ensure the stability of the financial system. Maintaining a higher CRR reduces the amount of funds available for lending by banks, thereby limiting their exposure to risk and enhancing depositor protection.

Effects Of Bank Failures

When banks fail, it’s not just about the people who put their money in or invest in them. It can mess up the whole economy. Knowing how bank failures affect everything is important so we can understand the damage they cause and take steps to make things better. Here are some important effects of bank failures:

Consequences For Depositors, Investors, And The Broader Economy

When a bank fails, depositors may lose some or all of their funds, depending on the extent of deposit insurance coverage. This can lead to financial hardship for individual depositors, especially those who rely on their savings for daily expenses or future financial goals.  Investors in the failed bank may suffer losses, particularly if the bank’s stocks or bonds become worthless. This can erode investor confidence and dampen investment activity in the financial markets.

Bank failures can have negative implications for the broader economy, including reduced consumer confidence, contraction in lending activity, and potential disruptions to economic growth. In extreme cases, bank failures can trigger systemic financial crises, leading to widespread economic downturns and instability.

The closure of Savannah Bank in Nigeria left depositors and businesses stranded, while the collapse of major financial institutions such as Lehman Brothers during the 2008 financial crisis had profound consequences for the global economy. 

Preventive Measures

It’s really important to take steps before a bank fails to stop it from happening and keep the financial system stable. By finding and fixing problems early and making sure banks manage risks well, regulators and banks can lower the chances of a bank failing and make it less damaging if it does. Here are some important things they do to prevent bank failures:

Importance Of Adequate Capitalization And Risk Management

Banks need to maintain sufficient capital reserves to absorb losses from adverse events, such as loan defaults or market downturns. Adequate capitalization enhances the bank’s resilience to financial shocks and reduces the risk of insolvency.

Effective risk management is essential for identifying, assessing, and mitigating risks inherent in banking activities. This includes credit risk, market risk, liquidity risk, and operational risk. Implementing robust risk management practices helps banks anticipate and address potential threats to their financial health.

Transparency And Disclosure Practices

Banks should provide accurate and timely information about their financial condition, risk exposures, and corporate governance practices. Transparency enables stakeholders, including depositors, investors, and regulators, to make informed decisions and assess the bank’s stability and performance.

Regulatory authorities may require banks to adhere to specific disclosure standards to enhance transparency and accountability. This may include regular financial reporting, disclosure of key risk indicators, and communication of material events that may impact the bank’s operations.

Intervention Strategies By Regulatory Bodies

Regulatory bodies, such as the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), play a critical role in overseeing banks and intervening when necessary to address emerging risks or vulnerabilities. This may involve conducting examinations, imposing corrective measures, or facilitating the resolution of distressed banks.

An example of intervention by regulatory bodies is the sale of Polaris Bank, which was formed from the assets and liabilities of the failed Skye Bank. The CBN intervened to stabilize the bank, protect depositors’ funds, and facilitate its eventual sale to a new investor. This intervention strategy helped prevent a systemic crisis and ensure the continuity of banking services.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Here are some of the frequently asked questions about bank failure and their answers: 

What Are The Effects Of A Bank Failing?

When a bank fails, it can make economic problems worse, like recessions or slowdowns. This happens because it messes up how easily people can borrow money, makes people spend less, and makes everyone unsure about what’s going to happen.

Who Wins When A Bank Fails?

After the insured depositors get their money back, the next ones in line to get paid are the uninsured depositors. After that, it’s the general creditors, who are people or organizations in which the bank owes money for things other than deposits.

 Are Joint Accounts Insured Separately From Individual Accounts?

Yes, joint accounts are insured separately from individual accounts. Each co-owner of a joint account is eligible for deposit insurance coverage up to the insured limit. 


Banks can fail for different reasons, like not having enough cash, being unable to pay their debts, not being managed well, or big economic problems from outside. When banks fail, it’s not just about the people who put money in or invest in them. It can mess up the whole economy, sometimes causing big financial crises that affect everyone.

Regulatory bodies like the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the Nigeria Deposit Insurance Corporation (NDIC) are really important. They watch over banks, make sure deposit insurance works, and make sure banks are honest and open about what they’re doing in the financial world.