Common Interview Questions: Credit Risk Analysts

One specialized position within the banking industry is that of a credit risk analyst. The job of assessing credit risk is crucial to the profitability of a bank since loans are the primary source of revenue for these institutions.

A credit risk analyst's job is to assess creditworthiness, either of individuals or companies and, more specifically, determine the amount of credit the bank should extend to the client. Credit risk analysts review financial statements, credit history, and economic conditions to determine a potential borrower's likely ability to meet interest payment obligations and ultimately pay back a loan.

Key Takeaways

  • Common interview questions for credit risk analysts include an opinion on a smart debt-to-equity ratio.
  • Credit risk analysts need to know how to explain a credit default swap and provide an example of one. 
  • General areas of expertise for a credit risk analyst should include being a team player, an understanding of macroeconomic concepts, and the ability to secure and maintain client relationships.

For those applying for a position to review business loans or business loan portfolios, most of the job-specific questions an interviewee is likely to encounter revolve around these areas of knowledge.

"How would you handle an important, long-time business client seeking a loan that your risk assessment tells you is not safe for the bank to make?"

This can be a key issue, since maintaining good client relationships with important corporate clients is essential to a bank's success. A bank does not want to risk losing a multimillion-dollar client over one loan application, but neither does it wish to make loans it does not believe can reasonably be paid back.

How you answer this type of question will display your ability to handle customer relations well and offer creative solutions for clients, while not endangering the bank's position as a lender. A good answer might be something like, "I would offer a smaller loan amount I believe the bank could safely extend, and then let the client know the exact steps they could take to allow me to extend further credit, and offer to meet with them to review the situation at some appropriate point in the future to consider a larger loan."

Credit risk analysts must be experts at deciphering financial statements and evaluation metrics such as leverage and profitability ratios.

"What is a good debt-to-equity ratio?"

You should have a solid answer ready for this question since the debt-to-equity (D/E) ratio is a key, if not the primary, financial ratio considered in evaluating a company's ability to handle its debt financing obligations.

The D/E ratio indicates a company’s total debt about its total equity, and it reveals what percentage of a company's financing is being provided by debt and what percentage by equity.

A debt-to-equity ratio that is too high suggests the company may be borrowing too much to fund operations, making investing in the company riskier, as the company is funded by debt that must be repaid.

A debt-to-equity ratio that is too low suggests the company is paying for most of its operations with equity, an inefficient and short-term approach to growing a business.

Your answer should show you understand the ratio and know that generally speaking, ratios lower than 1.0 indicate a more financially sound firm, while ratios higher than 1.0 indicate an increasing level of credit risk.

Beyond that, it should be noted that average D/E ratios vary significantly between sectors and industries. A more solid credit risk analysis includes an examination of the current state of the industry and the company's position within the industry, as well as consideration of other key financial ratios such as the interest coverage ratio or current ratio.

"What is a credit default swap?"

This question is more likely to be thrown at someone with previous experience in the field who is applying for a senior credit risk analyst position, but it still might show up in an interview for an entry-level credit risk analyst position with a bank. A good answer demonstrates you understand the concept.

A better answer includes an example. A credit default swap (CDS) is a frequently used method of mitigating risk in fixed-income, debt security instruments such as bonds, and it is one of the most common financial derivatives.

A CDS is essentially a type of investment insurance that allows the buyer to mitigate his investment risk by shifting risk to the seller of a CDS in exchange for a fee. The seller of the CDS stands in the position of guaranteeing the debt security in which the buyer has invested.

Other questions likely to be encountered in a credit risk analyst position interview are general questions about your problem-solving abilities, your ability to work as a part of a team, and your understanding of basic macroeconomic concepts such as fiscal policies and the prime rate.

Article Sources
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  1. "Credit Analyst: What They Do."

  2. Michigan State University. "Financial Ratios Part 6 of 21: Debt-To-Equity Ratio."

  3. Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System. "A Look Under the Hood: How Banks Use Credit Default Swaps."

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