What Does The FDIC Do When A Bank Fails?

Shawn Plummer

CEO, The Annuity Expert

As more and more people turn to banks and other financial institutions to manage their money, it’s essential to understand the role that organizations like the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) play in maintaining the stability and integrity of the banking system. This article will explore what the FDIC does when a bank fails, breaking down the process into easy-to-understand steps. We will also discuss the benefits the FDIC provides to you, the consumer, and how their actions ensure your hard-earned money remains safe.

Understanding the Role of the FDIC

The Purpose of the FDIC

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, or FDIC, was created in 1933 as part of the New Deal in response to the Great Depression. The primary purpose of the FDIC is to maintain public confidence in the United States banking system by insuring deposits in banks and thrift institutions up to a specific limit, currently $250,000 per depositor, per insured bank, for each account ownership category. If a bank fails, the FDIC will ensure that customers are protected and can recover their insured deposits.

How the FDIC Monitors Banks

The FDIC doesn’t just wait for a bank to fail before taking action. As a regulatory body, the FDIC actively monitors the health and stability of banks and financial institutions. They perform regular examinations, assessing the bank’s capital adequacy, asset quality, management practices, earnings, and liquidity. These evaluations help the FDIC identify potential issues early and work with the bank to resolve them before they escalate.

The Process of a Bank Failure

Banks in Trouble: Early Warning Signs

When a bank shows signs of financial distress, the FDIC may place it under increased scrutiny. This could include more frequent examinations, closer monitoring of the bank’s activities, or even issuing a formal enforcement action. The FDIC’s primary goal is to help banks return to a stable and healthy financial position, ensuring their customers’ deposits remain safe.

When the FDIC Steps In The Bank Failure Process

If a bank’s financial condition continues to deteriorate despite regulatory intervention, it may eventually reach the point of failure. At this stage, the FDIC protects the customers and the banking system. The process generally involves the following steps:

  • Closure: The state or federal chartering authority closes the failing bank.
  • Appointment of the FDIC as Receiver: The chartering authority appoints the FDIC as the receiver for the failed bank.
  • Asset and Liability Valuation: The FDIC takes control of the bank’s assets and liabilities, evaluating them to determine their worth.
  • Resolution: The FDIC seeks the least costly resolution method, which may include selling the bank to another institution or paying off insured depositors directly.

Resolution Methods

The FDIC uses several different resolution methods when dealing with a failed bank. These include:

  • Purchase and Assumption (P&A): In this method, the FDIC negotiates with healthy banks to take over the failed bank’s assets and liabilities. The acquiring bank assumes responsibility for the failed bank’s insured deposits, allowing customers to continue banking without interruption.
  • Deposit Payoff: If the FDIC cannot find a suitable acquirer, they may pay off the insured depositors directly. In this scenario, the FDIC will mail checks to the customers for the insured amount of their deposits.
  • Bridge Bank: In some cases, the FDIC may create a temporary bank, called a bridge bank, to assume the deposits and assets of the failed bank. This allows customers to maintain access to their accounts while the FDIC works to identify a suitable acquirer.

How Consumers Are Protected

Ensuring Access to Insured Deposits

When the FDIC steps in to resolve a bank failure, one of its top priorities is to ensure customers have access to their insured deposits as quickly as possible. Typically, the transition is seamless for customers, with access to their funds available through the acquiring bank or the FDIC’s direct payment method. Usually, customers can continue using their existing checks, debit cards, and online banking services.

The Importance of Deposit Insurance

Deposit insurance is a crucial aspect of the FDIC’s consumer protection mandate. By insuring deposits up to the $250,000 limit, the FDIC provides peace of mind for consumers who entrust their hard-earned money to banks and financial institutions. In addition, deposit insurance guarantees that, even in a bank failure, most depositors will not lose their savings.

Lessons Learned and Moving Forward

The FDIC’s Role in a Stable Financial System

The FDIC’s proactive approach to bank regulation and its effective resolution process help maintain stability in the financial system. The FDIC plays a vital role in promoting confidence in the banking sector by preventing bank failures and ensuring that customers’ deposits are protected when failures occur.

Choosing the Right Bank for You

As a consumer, it’s essential to understand the FDIC’s role and the protections it provides. When choosing a bank, ensure it is FDIC-insured, and be mindful of the $250,000 insurance limit for each account ownership category. With this knowledge, you can make informed decisions and feel confident in the safety of your deposits.


In summary, the FDIC is a critical player in maintaining the stability and integrity of the United States banking system. When a bank fails, the FDIC protects customers and their insured deposits, using various resolution methods to ensure minimal disruption. As a consumer, understanding the FDIC’s role and its protections can give you peace of mind and help you make informed decisions when choosing a bank. By staying informed and proactive, you can ensure that your hard-earned money remains secure, even in the unlikely event of a bank failure.

What Does The Fdic Do When A Bank Fails?

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Shawn Plummer

CEO, The Annuity Expert

I’m a licensed financial professional focusing on annuities and insurance for more than a decade. My former role was training financial advisors, including for a Fortune Global 500 insurance company. I’ve been featured in Time Magazine, Yahoo! Finance, MSN, SmartAsset, Entrepreneur, Bloomberg, The Simple Dollar, U.S. News and World Report, and Women’s Health Magazine.

The Annuity Expert is an online insurance agency servicing consumers across the United States. My goal is to help you take the guesswork out of retirement planning or find the best insurance coverage at the cheapest rates for you. 

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