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Nonperforming Loan (NPL)


A Nonperforming Loan (NPL) is a loan that the borrower has not made scheduled payments on for a specified period, typically at least 90 days. This suggests the likelihood the loan will not be repaid, leading to accrual of interest and principal in arrears. In some cases, banks may further classify NPLs as doubtful or bad debts.


The phonetics for “Nonperforming Loan (NPL)” would be: Nonperforming – /ˌnɒn pərˈfɔːrmɪŋ/Loan – /loʊn/NPL – /ˌen piː ˈel/

Key Takeaways


  1. Definition: A Nonperforming Loan (NPL) is a loan on which the borrower is not making their required regular payments. This typically occurs when a debtor has not made their scheduled payments for at least 90 days.
  2. Impact on Banks: High levels of NPLs can be detrimental to banks as they reduce a bank’s cash flow, which can lead to liquidity issues. Banks are required to hold more capital against NPLs, and this can impact their bottom line and reduce the funds they have available for lending.
  3. Risk Factor: NPL ratios are a key indicator of a bank’s health. A high NPL rate can reflect poorly on a bank’s credit policy and negatively impact its credit rating. Additionally, they may suggest that the bank is at a higher risk of failure, as its borrowers may not be able to repay their loans.



Nonperforming Loan (NPL) is a crucial term in business/finance as it refers to a loan that the borrower is not able to repay according to the terms agreed upon by the lender and borrower. The classification of a loan as nonperforming can have significant implications for both the lender’s financial health and the economy at large. High levels of NPLs can underscore substantial financial stress within banks because funds tied up in such loans generate no income, potentially leading to solvency issues. For the economy, NPLs can signal economic downturn if they are widespread, as businesses and individuals’ inability to repay loans likely suggests broader financial distress or recession. Therefore, monitoring NPL levels is essential for regulatory and fiscal health assessments.


Nonperforming Loan (NPL) is a crucial financial concept used by banking and financial institutions to gauge the health of their loan portfolio. The purpose of categorizing a loan as nonperforming is to reflect the reality of credit risk associated with that particular asset. It is an indicator of a loan where the borrower is unable to meet the repayment schedule, including principal and interest payments, and therefore, represents a higher risk of default. Since NPLs are less likely to be paid back fully, they are typically marked down as a loss to the lender. Nonperforming loans play a considerable role in the financial analysis and risk management within a banking institution. High levels of NPLs can signify a riskier lending environment, poor credit risk management and potentially severe consequences for a bank’s financial health. They hinder a bank’s revenue flows as interest payments are disrupted and principal repayments are not guaranteed. Consequently, the monitoring, managing and mitigating of NPLs are essential for banking institutions’ operational and financial stability. On a larger scale, NPLs are also critical macroeconomic indicators, as their rise can signal growing financial distress in the economy and trigger banking crises.


1. Housing Market Crash (2008): During the 2008 financial crisis, many homeowners in the United States were unable to meet their mortgage payment obligations. The situation was aggravated by the collapse of the housing market, which led many mortgages to become nonperforming loans. Banks and financial institutions had extended credit to individuals who were not creditworthy or could not afford the loan payments, resulting in a surge of NPLs.2. Greek Debt Crisis (2010): In the 2010 Greek Debt Crisis, many Greek banks held nonperforming loans. The situation arose after the Greek government revealed that it had underreported the country’s debt. This raised concerns about the stability of the Greek economy, causing many businesses and individuals to default on their loans. The Greek banks, therefore, were left with a significant number of nonperforming loans.3. Oil Industry Downturn (2014-2016): During the oil price collapse of 2014-2016, many energy companies took on significant debt to finance expansion and operations. However, as oil prices fell drastically, these companies struggled to repay their loans, and so an increase in nonperforming loans in banks that had loaned to these energy companies was observed. For example, some banks in Texas, a state known for its oil production, reported increased levels of such loans.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQ)

What is a Nonperforming Loan (NPL)?

A Nonperforming Loan (NPL) is a loan in which the borrower hasn’t made scheduled payments of principal or interest for at least 90 days. The loan is considered to be in default or near to being in default.

Why is the concept of NPL important in finance and business?

NPL serves as a key measure of a bank’s credit quality. A high level of nonperforming loans can affect a bank’s cash flow, profitability, and capital adequacy. It may also necessitate higher provisions for loan losses, thus affecting overall performance and sustainability.

How is the NPL ratio calculated?

The NPL ratio is calculated by taking the total amount of nonperforming loans and dividing it by the total amount of loans outstanding, then multiplying by 100 to derive a percentage. A low NPL ratio indicates that most of the bank’s loans are performing well.

What can cause an increase in Nonperforming Loans (NPLs)?

Increase in NPLs can be caused by various factors such as changes in economic conditions, borrowers experiencing financial hardship, lax in credit underwriting standards, or fraudulent activities.

How do financial institutions manage Nonperforming Loans (NPLs)?

Financial institutions manage NPLs by monitoring their loan portfolio relentlessly and identifying problem loans early. They may restructure the loan terms, improve the underwriting process, engage in debt recovery, or in worst-case scenarios, write off the loan.

What is the difference between substandard, doubtful, and loss in the classification of NPLs?

These are types of nonperforming loans. Substandard loans have a clear likelihood of loss but have some remaining value. Doubtful loans have high chances of total loss but not guaranteed. Loss loans are seen as unrecoverable.

How does a high volume of NPLs affect the economy?

A high volume of NPLs can affect the economy by reducing liquidity in the financial system, hampering economic growth. It can limit banks’ capacity to lend, which could lead to reduced corporate investment and negatively impact consumer spending, further affecting economic growth.

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