What Is a Bank Stress Test?

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  • Written By: G. Wiesen
  • Edited By: Shereen Skola
  • Last Modified Date: 03 December 2019
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A bank stress test is essentially a model or simulation of future events that demonstrates how well an institution might deal with changes in the financial landscape. These tests are often designed to show how predicted or possible changes might impact an organization, usually based on a number of factors and test criteria. A bank stress test can include multiple scenarios and tests, based on what is considered practical, including realistic and “worst case” tests. While a bank can run a test on itself, financial regulators and government institutions also run these tests on a larger scale to see how multiple systems might deal with a crisis.

The purpose of a bank stress test is to create a model of events in order to see how well groups might function in a particular situation. Stress tests in general refer to any type of testing that simulates an event of intensity to see how well systems can function during it. In creating a bank stress test, the people responsible typically look at a number of possibilities for financial situations. Using information about the bank, a simulation is created in which future changes are considered to see how well they might handle that situation.


A bank stress test is usually designed to create a few different scenarios, in order to fully understand what situations an organization can handle. Financial analysts running a test, for example, are likely to use predicted economic forecasts and see how well the bank might deal with that situation. More severe or dire possibilities can then be used to create additional tests that are more like a “worst case scenario.” If an institution is able to get through this type of catastrophic bank stress test, then it is likely to be able to do so should the test model become a reality.

Analysts can perform a bank stress test on one particular institution, using data regarding its current status. Much of this type of testing is never released to the public, but is instead used by an organization to determine possible courses of action for them. A bank stress test can also be performed by a government organization, especially one charged with overseeing and regulating banking for a particular country.

Larger tests often use data from multiple banks and a more robust model to perform a wide-scale analysis. Such testing is difficult and potentially more imprecise than those for individual institutions, but it provides a greater overall view of financial futures. These tests are often released to the public, are intended to boost confidence in an economic system, and demonstrate to certain banks that improvements need to be made.


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Post 2

@Sporkasia - The reasons regulators don't blow the whistle on banks who perform poorly on stress test is that they don't want to create a public panic. If the general public knew just how fragile some of these banks are then there would be a lot more people withdrawing their funds from banks and hiding their money under mattresses.

Post 1

Bank stress tests have proved to be a good way for banks to determine where they stand in changing financial environments. Some bank managers and executive teams even use results from these tests to make needed and beneficial changes to stabilize their institutions. However, in many countries, there is a great deal of doubt and skepticism regarding bank stress tests conducted by financial regulators and governmental organizations.

In some countries, regulators have been accused of hiding the results of bank stress tests because the overall condition of the banking system was so bad, and in many cases there were simply too many banks that were on extremely shaky ground.

While I understand that regulators may not be obligated to make the results of bank stress tests public, I do think regulators have a professional obligation to take proper actions against banks that do not perform up to standards.

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