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Key Risk Indicators for Banks, Credit Unions and Other Financial Institutions

5 min read
Jun 1, 2023

Identifying potential threats is essential for financial institutions. Internal and external business conditions are continually evolving, impacting an institution’s stability and success. The challenge lies in knowing what exactly to look for.  

This is where Key Risk Indicators (KRIs) come in. 

Table of contents 

What are KRIs? 

KRIs are clearly defined metrics that identify and predict potential risk. They help banks and other financial institutions understand and evaluate risk levels across the organization, a line of business, or a department.  

Key risk indicators examples include: 

  • A high percentage of first payment default loans: This could signal potential issues with credit risk management, or perhaps a need to review underwriting standards. 
  • Frequent turnover of key personnel: This could highlight potential employee dissatisfaction or recruitment issues, which could ultimately impact operational efficiency. 
  • A high rate of customer complaints: This could point to issues in customer service or product quality, potentially harming your organization's reputation and customer loyalty. 
  • An upward trend of virus penetrations to systems: This should trigger alarm bells for potential cyber risks that could compromise your data security. 
  • A higher than usual fraud rate: This might hint at deficiencies in internal controls or the need for more rigorous employee training. 

Why it’s important for banks to identify risk with KRIs

Key risk indicators are a bank’s early warning system. These carefully selected metrics serve as a barometer for risk, signaling changes in risk exposure throughout the institution. They help identify when a risk is trending in the wrong direction and act as an alert system. 

By identifying risks early on, banks can: 

  1. Mitigate losses: Proactive risk identification allows banks to implement necessary controls and preventive measures, reducing the likelihood and impact of potential losses. 
  2. Enhance decision making: Awareness of risks enables banks to make informed strategic decisions, including investment choices, capital allocation, and risk appetite assessments. 
  3. Ensure regulatory compliance: Identifying risks aids banks in meeting regulatory requirements and ensures compliance with applicable laws and guidelines. 

Proper use of KRIs can potentially save a bank from severe financial losses, operational disruptions, reputation damage, or even compliance violations. KRIs help banks address risks proactively, enhancing strategic decision-making, operational efficiency, and long-term sustainability. 

Examples of KRIs in Banking 

Now that we know what KRIs are, let’s look at some KRI examples for banks and the types of risk they address.  

  1. Credit Risk Indicators: Potential KRIs include high loan default rates, low credit quality, the percentage of high-risk loans in the portfolio, or high loan concentrations in specific sectors. These indicators are crucial for managing the bank's credit portfolio and minimizing potential losses. When these indicators start to trend in the wrong direction, it may signal potential issues in underwriting standards or economic conditions affecting borrowers' ability to repay.  
  2. Operational Risk Indicators: System downtime incidents, attempted cybersecurity breaches, or the employee turnover rate are all examples of KRIs related to operational risk. Monitoring these indicators can help to identify weaknesses in operational processes and rectify them before they lead to significant losses. 
  3. Market Risk Indicators: Key risk indicators for banks indicating market risk include changing interest rates or commodity prices or fluctuations in investment values. These KRIs are crucial for managing the bank's exposure to market movements and economic conditions. 
  4. Compliance Risk Indicators. Volume of consumer complaints, the number of policy exceptions, and the rate of compliance training completion are all potential KRIs suggesting an increase in compliance risk exposure. 
  5. Liquidity Risk Indicators: Low levels of cash reserves, high dependency on short-term funding, or a high ratio of loans to deposits can hint at liquidity risk. Such indicators help banks ensure they can meet their financial obligations as they come due.  

Remember, the most effective KRIs are those tailored to the specific institution's risk profile, business model, and strategic objectives. 

How to use KRIs at financial institutions  

As powerful as KRIs are, they only provide value if used correctly. Each KRI should have a predefined threshold that triggers action when exceeded.  

These thresholds should be based on the bank's risk appetite, industry benchmarks, historical data, and the potential impact on the bank's operations or reputation. 

It’s important to monitor and report on KRIs so that the bank knows when corrective action is needed. Many institutions choose to report KRIs visually, representing risk urgency with the colors of a stoplight.  

  • Green KRIs are within acceptable risk limits.  
  • Yellow KRIs point to increased risk that requires attention. 
  • Red represents the threshold has exceeded the institution’s risk tolerance and that immediate action is needed.  

It's also vital to monitor KRI trends over time. A single month's data might not provide much insight, but looking at the KRI over a period can indicate whether a risk is increasing, decreasing, or remaining steady. 

KRIs can also be paired with key performance indicators (KPIs) and other indicators to better understand your institution’s risk exposure – and help determine if you’re taking on the right amount of risk in pursuit of reward. 

Embracing technology for KRI management 

With the multitude of risks that financial institutions face, managing them manually can be a daunting task. This is where our enterprise risk management software comes into play. It enables banks and other financial institutions to effectively track and manage their KRIs, helping them to identify potential risks early, take timely action, and make informed decisions. 

Nrisk is an invaluable ally for tracking KRIs. An integrated enterprise risk system that enables banks and other financial institutions to measure potential impacts and manage risk from a position of powerful preparedness, Nrisk helps automate the process of tracking and analyzing KRIs, providing a real-time, comprehensive view of an institution's risk landscape. 

Benefits of Nrisk enterprise risk management software for managing KRIs 

With our software, you can: 

  1. Customize your own KRIs to suit your institution's specific needs or leverage Nrisk’s library of risks. 
  2. Visualize your data, providing clear insights into trends and potential areas of concern. 
  3. Receive real-time updates, enabling you to respond swiftly to emerging risks. 
  4. Show when thresholds are breached. 
  5. Produce visually appealing reports that highlight trends.
  6. Provide a centralized place for risk information that promotes consistency and accessibility. 

Benefits of Nrisk software for managing KRIs 

KRIs are strategic tools that provide invaluable insights into an organization's risk profile – empowering financial institutions to proactively manage risks and protect their assets, reputation, and stakeholders. Understanding what KRIs are and effectively leveraging them will help ensure your institution's success and resilience in a constantly evolving financial environment. 

With the right approach to KRI selection, monitoring, and the power of technology, banks can transform their risk management into a strategic asset – maximizing the value of this important tool. 


This [Risk Performance Management] suite [including Nrisk] offers things like key risk indicator (KRI) and key performance indicator (KPI) tracking, which can be tracked from an organizational risk standpoint and used by different teams to reduce risk across the organization. These are the types of tools in the software that allow different departments to engage with one another.”   

- Senior Vice president of Integrated Risk at $6 billion-asset credit unions

Ready to see how Nrisk can help you elevate your use of KRIs? Schedule a demo with us today to see how our platform can help you track, analyze, and manage your organization's key risk indicators.


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