What Does a Bank Examiner Do?

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A bank examiner reviews a document while sitting at a desk with a laptop.

A bank examiner is a public servant who works to ensure that our nation’s banks remain strong and safe. They examine financial institutions’ operations and records to make sure that they comply with laws and regulations. This brings stability to banks and the national economy as a whole.

Bank examiners aren’t accountants, although they share many of the same skills. Successful bank examiners must have a strong working knowledge of accountancy and accounting laws and a significant level of related experience. This advanced accounting knowledge can come from advanced degree programs, such as a Master of Accountancy (M.Acc.). If they aren’t accountants, then what does a bank examiner do?

What Is a Bank Examiner?

Also known as financial examiners, bank examiners are financial professionals who make sure that banks and institutions like savings and loans are industry and government compliant. Their chief goal is to make sure that financial institutions are behaving legally and ethically. They can work as part of a government agency at the federal, state or local level. In some cases, they may work for the institutions themselves.

What a bank examiner does typically centers on risk assessment or consumer compliance. Risk assessment involves identifying inherent risk in an institution’s products and services, such as ensuring that loans are structured to protect the bank.

Consumer compliance focuses on making sure that lending activity protects borrowers and doesn’t cause them to make a bad long-term financial decision. In this case, a bank examiner may be on the lookout for banks that engage in predatory lending — offering high interest loans — or banks that discriminate against borrowers due to their race, ethnicity or gender. Regardless of focus, a bank examiner’s goal is to protect the involved parties.

A bank examiner may work on just one bank at a time. However, the collective work of bank examiners establishes a network of compliance that keeps banks operating ethically and legitimately. This provides stability to the financial system as a whole, even though bank examiners work independently of each other.

Bank Examiner Job Description

In either area of focus, bank and financial examiners have similar duties. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that bank and financial examiners may be asked to do the following:

  • Monitor the health of banks and other financial institutions. This function requires extensive and careful examination of financial records, operating documents, workforce structure and any other factors that may affect the organization’s soundness.
  • Examine high-level meeting minutes, if necessary, to fully understand the relationships and actions of managers and directors.
  • Confirm an organization’s assets and liabilities by reviewing balance sheets, operating income, expense accounts and loan documents.
  • Prepare reports that summarize the findings of the bank examiner’s investigations.
  • Train other examiners to carry out financial examinations.
  • Review new regulations and policies whenever they’re introduced to evaluate their potential impact on the organization. The bank examiner must form an opinion about the potential effect of such policies, and make recommendations based on that opinion.
  • Help to establish guidelines for following and complying with the new regulations, if they’re deemed appropriate.

Because much of a bank examiner’s work is done on site, examiners may travel extensively. Bank examiners may often spend weeks at a remote location, living out of a hotel and working in a borrowed office to complete an assignment.

How to Become a Bank Examiner

Because the bank examiner role is so critical, it’s not too surprising that an individual must take specific steps prior to fully pursuing the profession. These steps are designed to ensure that individuals have the proper level of knowledge and skills to fully excel in the role.

Step 1: Education

Bank examiners are usually required to have a bachelor’s degree, and while a degree in accounting or finance may be preferred, it’s not strictly required. Many institutions prefer applicants to have a master’s degree, such as an M.Acc.. An advanced degree can lead to senior and management opportunities.

Step 2: Experience

Entry-level roles in banking and finance offer crucial hands-on experience. This experience can particularly be beneficial for individuals who earned an undergraduate degree in a field other than finance. The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, an agency of the Treasury Department, offers an entry-level program that establishes qualified applicants as assistant national bank examiners.

Step 4: Training

The agencies and institutions that employ bank examiners usually require prospective bank examiners to undergo specific training before assuming the role. These programs detail concepts such as money laundering, consumer protection and loan analysis, and culminate in an exam. Federal bank examiners often undergo the rigorous training to become commissioned bank examiners, which allows them to operate as examiners-in-charge. This requires classroom instruction and several years of on-the-job training, as well as testing.

Bank Examiner Salary

The median annual salary for bank and financial examiners was $81,410 in 2021, according to the BLS. The lowest 10% in the field earned less than $48,830, and the highest 10% earned more than $160,850. Factors contributing to pay include education, certifications, additional skills or areas of specialization, years of experience, and job location.

The BLS also projects 18% job growth  in the bank and financial examiner fields between 2020 and 2030. This is significantly higher than the 8% job growth that the BLS projects for the job market as a whole.

Keep Banks Ethical and Reliable

Bank examiners’ work keeps financial institutions strong and stable, and by extension plays a key role in maintaining the financial health of the global economy. The University of North Dakota online M.Acc. program helps students master accounting principles as well as related skills necessary for a successful career in bank and financial examination or other areas of finance.

UND offers three options for M.Acc. candidates. The Fundamentals track, designed for students with a bachelor’s degree in an area other than accounting, offers students new to the field a foundation in the fundamentals.

The Professional track, designed for students with a bachelor’s degree in accounting, offers concentrations in Data Analytics, Organizations and Leadership, and Public Administration, and prepares graduates for the CPA exam.

The Accelerated program offers undergraduate sophomore and junior accounting majors the opportunity to complete a combined Bachelor of Accountancy (B.Acc.) and M.Acc. program in as little as five years.

Whatever your level, find out how UND can help you launch a new phase of your career.

Recommended Reading:

Diversity in Accounting: Statistics, Benefits and Challenges

5 Accounting Trends for 2022

What Kind of Jobs Can You Get with a Master’s in Accounting?


Firsthand, Bank Examiners

Indeed, How to Become a Bank Examiner

Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, Entry-Level Bank Examiner

Society for Human Resource Management, Senior Bank Examiner

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Financial Examiners