4 Traits of a Strong Credit Analyst

Mary Ellen Biery
November 22, 2019
Read Time: min

Soft skills are important for credit analysts

The economic environment and industry challenges facing community financial institutions mean that managing risk and driving growth are imperative for banks and credit unions, industry experts say. As a result, credit risk management is vital, and credit analysts play a critical role in the success of their financial institutions’ credit risk functions. 

Loan review and credit risk Consultant Ancin Cooley recently led two Abrigo webinars, “Best Practices for Credit Analysts at Banks” and “CU Best Practices for Credit Analysts,” and he says that a strong  credit analyst is extremely valuable. A strong credit analyst is one who is not only proficient in the routine skills related to determining the creditworthiness of applicants and preparing reports for management review and regulatory reporting. It is someone who also possesses certain soft skills that allow them to serve an important control function in the financial institution. Their talent that goes beyond intellect plays an important role in managing credit risk.

Cooley likens bankers and those in loan production to the gas pedal on an automobile, and credit analysts to the brake. “You cannot go forward if you don’t have the gas,” Cooley said during the webinar with banks. “And you cannot drive earnings and interest income if you do not have loan officers that are out there beating the pavement, doing a good job and building relationships.”

“At the same time, if you have strong loan officers without compensating controls in the form of strong and talented credit analysts, you will go off the road, you will run into something,” said Cooley, a former OCC examiner who also provides strategic planning and risk appetite consulting through his firms, Synergy Bank Consulting and Synergy Credit Union Consulting. “There’s value in both functions.”   

Credit analysts who are most beneficial to a bank or credit union have four core qualities that set them apart – both in their usefulness to the bank and in their own careers, Cooley said. These four traits are:

  • Curiosity
  • Perspective
  • Introspection
  • Emotional intelligence

Curiosity

A strong credit analyst will have more than a passing interest in the numbers that make up the loan application he or she is reviewing. Cooley said the credit analyst wants to “get behind the numbers.” Rather than simply understanding that the revenue of a business went up, the strong credit analyst is able to explain why revenue went up or down. “They have a curiosity about the business and what makes that business tick,” he said.

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Perspective

A strong credit analyst also needs to have perspective as he or she performs the job. “You want to have perspective about the loan officer and what they’re trying to accomplish with that deal,” he said. “You should be happy to help that loan officer get a win from time to time, but also you should understand the perspective you’re coming from as an analyst.” For example, Cooley said that if you are an analyst who does a ride-along with a loan officer and goes out to lunch with the business customer, don’t forget that you are a control function for the financial institution. “Don’t get so bought into the deal that you lose your independence,” he cautioned.

Introspection

A strong credit analyst will recognize that there are certain areas that even he or she can improve upon. For example, the analyst might acknowledge he or she is less confident in understanding certain aspects of a credit’s cash flow situation and may decide to follow up with the loan officer for clarification. Or the analyst may look to a senior analyst for feedback or guidance from time to time. It is a good idea to continue growing in knowledge and to have the courage to ask for assistance to beef up in the areas where the analyst can continue to learn.

Emotional intelligence

A strong credit analyst, finally, should be one that has emotional intelligence. This means the credit analyst knows how to build relationships, but also is able to have tough conversations with those same people, Cooley said. “You can be smart and right, but if you don’t know how to communicate with people, you won’t go far in this business,” he said. If a credit needs to go from pass to substandard, it should be moved to substandard, Cooley said, but a strong credit analyst should be willing to communicate that information to a loan officer, and in some circumstances, be willing to negotiate.

Cooley said that any level 1 credit analyst should be able to spread loan financials efficiently. A credit analyst who is especially strong is curious, has perspective, is introspective and has emotional intelligence, he said. “It’s these softer skills that are going to make or break your career.”

And it is these traits of a strong credit analyst that can also benefit a financial institution trying to drive growth and manage risk in an industry undergoing a lot of changes. For more information on best practices for credit analysts, listen to one of the webinars: “Best Practices for Credit Analysts at Banks” and “CU Best Practices for Credit Analysts.”

About the Author

Mary Ellen Biery

Mary Ellen Biery is a Senior Writer and Content Specialist at Abrigo.

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Abrigo is a leading technology provider of compliance, credit risk, and lending solutions that community financial institutions use to manage risk and drive growth. Our software automates key processes — from anti-money laundering to fraud detection to lending solutions — empowering our customers by addressing their Enterprise Risk Management needs.

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