Becoming a Bank Examiner: Job Description & Salary Info

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What are the pros and cons of a career as a bank examiner? Get real job descriptions, career prospects and salary info to see if becoming a bank examiner is right for you.
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Pros and Cons of a Career as a Bank Examiner

Also known as financial or field examiners, bank examiners are employed by corporate, state or federal financial institutions to keep banks abreast of current laws and regulations. Read on to find out the pros and cons of this job and see if becoming a bank examiner is the right choice for you.

Pros of Becoming a Bank Examiner
Bank losses and failures will increase need for examiners through 2022*
Good salary prospects (median annual wage of about $76,000 as of 2014 for all financial examiners)*
New regulations expected to create a need for more financial examiners*
Multiple specialization options (can examine trusts, capital market activities or electronic processing operations)**

Cons of Becoming a Bank Examiner
Ongoing changes to procedures and regulations make this a challenging career***
Extensive knowledge of financial regulations is required and may take significant time outside of school to learn***
Many positions require substantial travel****
Requires strong analytical skills and the ability to pay close attention to detail to ensure that a bank's balance sheets are accurate*

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), **Texas Department of Banking, ***Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, ****Multiple Job Postings (August 2012).

Essential Career Information

Career Description and Job Responsibilities

Bank examiners monitor the activities of banking institutions and other financial businesses to ensure that they are in compliance with the laws and regulations currently in place. Examiners are often employed within the 12-district Federal Reserve Bank system, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) and other federal, state and corporate banks and financial institutions.

Bank examiners typically review and analyze expense accounts, loan documents, balance sheets, operating income, new policies and regulations. They prepare reports on the institution's soundness and safety, recommend solutions to unresolved issues, and help establish guidelines for compliance policies and procedures after analyzing the documents or regulations. Typically, bank examiners work in one of two primary financial areas: consumer compliance or risk scoping. In consumer compliance, examiners monitor an institution's lending activity and in risk scoping, they evaluate the institution's overall financial stability.

Career Prospects and Salary

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projected a 6% increase in jobs for financial examiners from 2012-2022. Some of the projected growth was attributed to the need for more examiners to handle the implementation of new regulations. However, overall slower-than-average growth has been attributed to declining employment growth in the federal government.

In May 2014, the BLS reported that financial examiners earned a median annual wage of about $76,000. The bottom 10% of financial examiners earned less than $45,000 in 2014, while the top 10% of these professionals earned more than $146,000. With enough experience, this could turn out to be an extremely high-paying career.

Education and Training

Bank examiners are typically required to have a bachelor's degree that includes coursework in accounting or finance. Training is often provided by the organization that hires you and can range from a 1 month up to 2 years. You'll also need strong communication and math skills. The ability to pay attention to detail is essential, along with a willingness to travel. High-level bank examining positions may require a master's degree in banking or finance and certification in a specialized area, such as bank security, anti-money laundering, accountancy or foreign assets.

What Employers Are Looking For

While many employers provide some kind of training, they do have a decided preference for candidates who have a firm grasp of industry laws and regulations, financial analysis and investigative techniques. Companies are also looking for candidates with strong leadership, learning aptitude and teamwork qualities, along with demonstrated abilities in computer applications such as Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint. Below are some examples of jobs posted in August 2012:

  • A Federal Reserve Bank in Missouri was seeking a bank examiner to check the soundness of banking organizations in the region. A bachelor's degree or equivalent experience was required. Candidates need to have at least 3 years of experience in banking regulation and have strong communication skills.
  • A consumer affairs department in Arkansas was looking to hire a bank examiner to lead consumer protection examinations. The successful candidate would have a bachelor's degree in a business-related field and be competent in using Microsoft Office software. Applicants with a Certified Regulatory Compliance Manager (CRCM) designation would be preferred.
  • A Federal Reserve Bank branch in Miami was looking for a bank examiner who has a bachelor's degree. This position requires the candidate to examine banks and other companies at a variety of locations throughout the region. Candidates with at least 2 years of experience were preferred.
  • An independent regulation organization located in New York was seeking a financial operations examiner to ensure that member organizations were compliant with regulations. Candidates need a bachelor's degree and at least 5 years of experience in a related industry. Some overnight travel is also required (about 25% of the time).

How to Get an Edge in the Field

You should always be keeping up with the most current industry topics in order to stay competitive in the field. If you're still in school, you should also consider internships, campus activities, community affiliations, professional associations or part-time jobs in banking, accounting or finance. Jobs that give you the most exposure to industry practices, regulations and banking legislation are the ones that you'll want to target. You might also want to learn as much as you can about automated banking systems, bank products, risk management, consumer compliance and the different types of corporate and government-run financial institutions.

If you've completed your degree and are just entering the job market, you may want to consider taking courses that cover a particular specialty in banking. Online banking courses are available through colleges, universities and professional organizations, such as the American Banking Association (ABA) or the Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council (FFIEC). By developing a good working knowledge of key industry areas, you can give yourself an edge in the job market.

Alternative Career Paths

Loan Officer

If you haven't received your bachelor's degree yet and you're not sure becoming a bank examiner would be best for you, consider pursuing a position as a loan officer. Loan officers evaluate, recommend and authorize loan applications for individuals and businesses. Employed primarily in banks, mortgage companies, credit unions and related financial institutions, most loan officers only need a high school diploma and are trained on the job. However, commercial loan positions often require a bachelor's degree and mortgage lending jobs are only open to candidates who are licensed.

Starting out as a loan officer could provide you with a good opportunity to learn the aspects of the banking industry and put you in a better position to determine if this industry is for you without investing too much into it. The BLS projected that loan officers would experience job growth of 14% between 2010 and 2020. You can still have solid earning potential as a loan officer, especially considering that this career does not require a bachelor's degree; the BLS reported that these professionals earned a median yearly income of approximately $58,000 in 2011.

Accountant

If you find that you're drawn to the organization and maintenance of financial records, you might want to consider a career as an accountant. These professionals examine financial statements for accuracy and compliance, prepare tax reports and inspect accounting records. They also assess financial operations and make recommendations to improve practices, reduce costs and increase profits.

For most accounting positions, a bachelor's degree in accounting or a related field is required. If this does, in fact, seem like the right career path for you, then you might want to consider becoming a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) as well. This nationally-recognized credential is a strong professional enhancement and a requirement for accountants filing reports with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The BLS projected that accountants would see job growth of 16% from 2010-2020. The BLS also reported that the median annual wage for accountants and auditors was roughly $63,000 as of 2011.

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