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Provision for Credit Losses (PCL): Definition, Uses, Example


Provision for Credit Losses (PCL) is a financial term referring to the funds that banks and other financial institutions set aside as an estimate of potential losses from giving out loans and advances that may not be repaid. It acts as a protective buffer against possible non-performing loans or defaults by borrowers. This provision is treated as an expense and subtracted from a bank’s revenues, reducing overall profits.


The phonetic pronunciation for the keyword “Provision for Credit Losses (PCL): Definition, Uses, Example” is as follows:Provision – pruh-vizh-uhnfor – fawrCredit – kre-ditLosses – loh-siz(PCL) – pee see elDefinition – def-uh-nish-uhnUses – yoo-zezExample – ig-zam-puhl

Key Takeaways

  1. Definition: Provision for Credit Losses (PCL) is an expense that a financial institution sets aside as an allowance for bad debts or loans that may default in the future. It is also known as loan loss provision (LLP) and is considered an important part of a bank’s financial health. The PCL is based on the company’s historical experience, current trends, and management’s insight into current and future events.
  2. Uses: PCL is used as a preventive measure against potential losses from defaults. By setting aside this provision, banks can ensure that they will have a buffer in case a significant number of loans turn bad. This not only keeps the bank’s finances in check, but also protects depositors. It is closely monitored by internal management and regulators alike, as it can significantly impact a bank’s earnings and capital.
  3. Example: For example, if a bank has issued $1 billion in loans, and historical data suggests that approximately 1% of loans may default, the bank will set aside $10 million as a Provision for Credit Losses. This amount may increase when economic conditions worsen or during a credit crisis, and decrease when economic conditions improve or the quality of the loans improves.


The Provision for Credit Losses (PCL) is a crucial concept in business and finance as it helps businesses estimate and prepare for potential defaults or non-payments by their customers. It acts as a precautionary measure on a company’s financial statements, safeguarding against potential bad debt or credit losses. PCL not only provides an accurate picture of a business’s financial health but also enhances the reliability of the business’s financial reports. By allocating funds for credit losses, companies can better manage their risks and ensure smoother cash flow. For instance, if a business has a high PCL, it indicates large expected credit losses, which could deter investors due to perceived financial instability. Conversely, a lower PCL may suggest a healthier financial status, attracting more investors.


The Provision for Credit Losses (PCL) serves as a critical fiscal instrument for financial institutions to mitigate anticipated losses caused by defaults on loans or non-payment by borrowers. Essentially, it is a preventative measure adopted by companies to handle the potential risk associated with their lending operations. This anticipatory step backs up the financial stability of the companies, ensuring they retain a sound financial position even when faced with unforeseen delinquencies. PCL allows organizations to maintain credit quality and assists in the efficient management of their lending portfolios.For example, consider a bank that has issued several mortgages or other types of loans. Based on historical data and their techniques for evaluating the creditworthiness of borrowers, the bank anticipates that a percentage of these issued loans will default. Therefore, they set aside a particular amount of their earnings, forming the Provision for Credit Losses. This action strengthens the bank’s resilience against potential financial uncertainties. Hereby, the purpose of the PCL, allowing financial establishments to continue to operate effectively amidst debt-related losses, underlines its core importance in the banking and financial industry.


1. JP Morgan Chase & Co: As an illustration of Provision for Credit Losses (PCL), in their Q2 2020 financial report, the US banking giant JP Morgan Chase & Co reported a significant increase in their provision for credit losses up to $10.47 billion due to the unprecedented economic challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. They had to make these significant loan loss provisions because they predicted an increase in defaults on loans due to the pandemic-induced economic breakdown and job losses.2. Wells Fargo & Co: In Q2 of 2020, Wells Fargo & Co reported a PCL of $9.57 billion. This was in response to the potential credit losses they might face due to the financial instability of businesses and individuals brought about by the global health crisis. Their PCL was significantly higher than in the previous quarters due to the increased risk of loan defaults, demonstrating how external economic circumstances can heavily impact the PCL.3. Barclays Bank: A UK-based multinational bank, announced a £2.1bn credit charges provision in Q1 2020 financial report. This substantial PCL was due to the widespread economic uncertainty caused by Covid-19. The bank took into account a potential surge in credit defaults across the UK and globally. Although Barclays operates in a different jurisdiction, the principle of PCL remains the same. Their conservative yet pragmatic approach to an anticipated increase in credit losses is a key example of how PCL works in practice.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQ)

What is Provision for Credit Losses (PCL)?

Provision for Credit Losses (PCL) is a financial term that refers to the funds set aside by a company or financial institution as an estimate of potential or anticipated credit losses. It’s a method to anticipate and manage potential loan or credit defaults, reflecting the uncertainty in the repayment of debts.

How is Provision for Credit Losses used in finance and business?

The Provision for Credit Losses is used as a type of protection against possible or future losses. This provision is recognized as an expense in the company’s income statement, reducing the overall earnings. It’s an essential part of risk management, particularly in industries, such as banking or finance, that deal heavily with loans and credit.

Can you give an example of Provision for Credit Losses in operation?

Sure, let’s take an example of a bank. If a bank has provided loans worth $500 million to various businesses and individuals, and based on its past experience and economic forecast, it estimates that 2% of its loans might become default. The bank would then set aside $10 million (2% of $500 million) as Provision for Credit Losses.

How is the Provision for Credit Losses calculated?

Calculating the Provision for Credit Losses typically involves a complex financial model that takes into account the total loan value, the likelihood of repayment, historical default rates, and other contributing factors. The specific calculation method varies among different companies and industries.

Does the Provision for Credit Losses affect a company’s profit?

Yes, it does. The Provision for Credit Losses is recognized as an expense, and like any expense, it reduces the company’s total earnings or profit. Hence, a higher provision will lead to lower profit and vice versa.

Is a higher Provision for Credit Losses bad?

A higher Provision for Credit Losses could indicate that a company anticipates a higher risk of loan defaults. However, it’s crucial to note that it’s a safety measure. While it might lead to lower profits in the short term, it provides protection against potential future losses and ensures the company’s financial stability.

Related Finance Terms

  • Allowance for Loan and Lease Losses (ALLL): This is a type of contingency that is set aside by financial institutions to cover potential losses in the loan portfolios. It is somewhat similar to a PCL as it takes into account the potential credit losses.
  • Impairment: This is a reduction in the quality or value of a financial asset. This term is relevant because PCL is made in anticipation of such impairment toward a loan or other receivable.
  • Non-Performing Loans (NPLs): Loans that are due but not paid for a certain period, usually 90 days or more. These are the types of loans that PCLs typically cover.
  • Write-off: This is the reduction of the value of an asset in the books when it is uncollectible. This is related to PCL as a write-off may occur when the provisions made for credit losses turn out to be inadequate.
  • Credit Risk: The possibility that a borrower or counterparty in a transaction may not fulfill its obligations. Provisions for credit losses are made due to the inherent credit risk in lending activities.

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