What Does a Financial Examiner Do?

FT Contributor  | 

A financial examiner works to ensure that banks and other financial institutions follow laws and regulations and provide the required consumer protections. They also perform risk assessments to measure the financial health of banks and lending institutions.

When a financial examiner assesses a bank, they look at their financial records, assess risk management practices, and speak with bank executives.

In this investigative job, you may work for a government agency at the state or federal level. Many financial examiner opportunities exist in the private sector and the insurance industry as well.

This career can be lucrative, but it requires a degree, certification, and previous experience.

Here is what you need to know if you want to pursue a career as a financial examiner:

Types of Financial Examiner Jobs

Financial examiners may work in different settings, though their job duties are similar regardless of where they work.

  • Some financial examiners work for the federal government. They ensure that banks comply with relevant laws and meet all requirements related to consumer protection, fair lending, and risk management. In this position, you may also investigate discriminatory lending practices and similar allegations.
  • State governments employ financial examiners to perform similar compliance and risk-management assessments of the financial institutions within their jurisdiction.
  • Companies and organizations often hire financial examiners to ensure their operations comply with all relevant regulations or to examine suspicious activities. In this field, a financial examiner will perform the same duties as if they worked for the government. However, they report findings internally so that the company can correct them before they become external issues.
  • While some financial examiners focus on banks and lending institutions, others focus on securities and other investment vehicles. In these positions, you may, for example, look at trading activity and balance sheets to ensure that companies and individuals follow regulations governing investment and security trading.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), 41% of financial examiners focus on lending and work with institutions that extend credit; 14% investigate investment and trading activities, and 19% work directly for either federal or state governments.

Financial Examiner Job Description

Financial examiners work in two areas: compliance and risk scoping. Compliance-focused financial examiners ensure that companies, organizations, financial institutions, and lenders comply with all relevant regulations. Those who work on risk scoping assess the overall health of financial institutions and ensure that they make safe loans and have cash on hand to deal with unexpected economic events.

  • Financial examiners review documents and data related to banking, trading, and lending operations. You may analyze balance sheets, loan applications, cash flow data, and information about assets.
  • Depending on where you work, you could spend time meeting with management-level personnel, executives, or employees to gain additional information about a bank or company’s operations and policies.
  • You may also read meeting transcripts or listen to shareholder calls to gain insights into management.
  • If you perform internal assessments, you usually offer guidance to executives to help them make decisions and policies related to compliance or risk mitigation.
  • You also need to learn about new regulations and discern how they affect banking and lending operations. If you work for a company, your duties would include suggesting the necessary changes to comply with new laws.
  • If your work involves loans and credit, you perform risk assessments to ensure that lenders offer safe loans that abide by consumer protection regulations. You also ensure that the company has an operation that can handle unexpected economic events.
  • Financial examiners create reports, with supporting evidence, to show their findings to the relevant decision-maker, regulatory body, manager, or stakeholder.
  • You often work as part of a team to provide an overall picture of an organization’s financial health, operations, and regulatory compliance.

Financial ExaminerSalary and Job Outlook

According to the BLS, financial examiners make $80,180 per year, on average. This salary is higher than the median annual pay for all financial specialists, which is $70,770.

The median salary for financial examiners is more than twice the average annual salary for all occupations. That said, the bottom 10% of financial examiners only make $42,150 annually. The top 10%, however, earn more than $154,000.

Those who work for the federal government are the highest-paid financial examiners, on average. They earn a median annual income of $122,010. Those who work in lending compliance and risk scoping earn much less. The average yearly salary for this specialization is just over $70,000. Specialists who work with company management and securities trading typically have an annual salary in the $85,000 to $89,000 range.

The BLS foresees a 7% increase in demand for financial examiners in the coming decade. The average growth for all careers is 5%, so financial examiners should expect slightly above-average growth in the near future.

Work Schedule

Financial examiners typically work regular hours. You can expect a Monday to Friday work week that averages 40 hours per week. If you attend meetings or investigate companies, you may need to travel occasionally or meet with executives or employees outside of regular business hours.

Work Environment

Financial examiners work in an office setting. When examining data and performing risk assessment analysis, you usually use a computer.

If you work for a government agency, you may have to travel to a bank or company offices to meet with executives or employees. Depending on the nature of your job, these office visits could be frequent or occasional.

Financial Examiner Education and Training Requirements

Financial examiners need at least a bachelor’s degree in finance, accounting, economics, math, or a related field. Some employers do not require a specific degree subject, but they do require coursework in accounting. Though not required for most positions, a master’s degree in business administration could open up additional advancement opportunities.

Entry-level financial examiners receive on-the-job training. As a novice, you can expect to work alongside a senior financial examiner while you learn the nuances of the job. The length of the training varies from job to job, but it can last from one to three years.

You can also pursue certifications. Some financial examiners gain the necessary professional experience and pass the required exams to become a certified public accountant (CPA).

The Society of Financial Examiners (SOFE) has professional accreditations. To sit for a series of certification exams, you need at least a bachelor’s degree and a transcript that includes accounting, business law, finance, and auditing classes. When you pass the exams, you can earn accreditation as an Accredited Financial Examiner (AFE).

Financial Examiner Skills, Aptitudes, and Competencies

Financial examiners need hard skills to succeed in their careers. For example, you have to develop strong math and accounting skills because you have to perform risk assessments and gather data from financial records and documents.

Financial examiners also need more intangible skills, which are sometimes known as soft skills. Regardless of your area of focus, as a financial examiner you need written and spoken communication skills. These abilities are essential because you have to communicate your findings to executives or authorities, and you need to talk with executives or bankers during your assessment of their operations.

Financial examiners need to pay attention to details. Often, vital information is in complex financial records, and you need to locate the necessary data and use it in detailed calculations to complete your assessments.

The ability to analyze the data, information, and the results of your calculations is also essential.

Similar Jobs

Auditors, accountants, financial analysts, and compliance specialists have similar duties to financial examiners.

Auditors examine financial data and records to ensure compliance and evaluate business operations and financial performance for a company. Their job usually focuses on financial records, and they are not concerned with the other types of information that a financial examiner uses.

Accountants make financial documents, track budgets, and collect other types of financial data. They prepare and assess the documents, records, and data that financial examiners use to evaluate a company.

Financial analysts examine financial and economic data and information for various purposes. They may analyze the same information as financial examiners but for different purposes.

Compliance specialists ensure that organizations and companies abide by all regulations. Like financial examiners, they can work for government agencies or perform internal audits for a company or organization.


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