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Tier 1 Capital Ratio


The Tier 1 Capital Ratio is a measure used by banking regulators to determine the financial health and capital adequacy of a bank. It compares a bank’s core equity capital to its total risk-weighted assets. A higher ratio indicates a bank is more capable of absorbing losses without becoming insolvent.


Tier 1 Capital Ratio is phonetically pronounced as “teer wuhn kap-i-tl rey-shee-oh.”

Key Takeaways


Definition: Tier 1 Capital Ratio is a measurement used by banking regulatory authorities to assess a bank’s financial strength. It is the ratio of a bank’s core capital to its total risk-weighted assets.


Importance: An adequate Tier 1 Capital Ratio acts as a buffer against financial losses that a bank might experience in case the liabilities exceed the assets. It is an indicator of the bank’s ability to absorb losses without becoming insolvent, and thus, of its financial stability.


Regulation: Banking regulators worldwide establish a minimum requirement for the Tier 1 Capital Ratio to ensure that the banks maintain a sufficient level of internal funds to protect their stakeholders from financial shocks. An insufficient Tier 1 Capital Ratio might indicate a higher risk of insolvency.


The Tier 1 Capital Ratio is a critical measure in the banking industry because it signifies a bank’s financial health and resilience. It refers to the ratio of a bank’s core equity capital to its total risk-weighted assets, which includes all the assets held by the bank that are systemically weighted for risk. This key financial indicator measures a bank’s capital adequacy and capacity to meet its financial obligations and absorb unexpected losses. A higher ratio signals that the bank has a stronger cushion against insolvency, enhancing the confidence of depositors and investors. Regulators closely monitor this ratio to ensure stability in the financial system. Thus, the importance of the Tier 1 Capital Ratio lies in its ability to act as a preventive measure against financial crises and bank failures.


The Tier 1 Capital Ratio is a crucial yardstick that banks and other financial institutions use to gauge their financial robustness, measure risk, and maintain financial stability. Essentially, it compares a bank’s core equity capital to its total risk-weighted assets (RWA), indicating its ability to absorb unexpected losses without jeopardizing its daily operations. A high Tier 1 Capital Ratio is a positive indicator of the bank’s financial health, as it signifies that the institution possesses a sizable amount of loss-absorbing capital against the potential risks, which can be in the form of credit, market, or operational setbacks.This metric primarily serves as a risk management tool ensuring banks have sufficient cushion to withstand financial distress and economic downturns. Its importance came into vivid visibility during the 2008 financial crisis, post which stricter standards were introduced under Basel III whereby banks must maintain a minimum Tier 1 capital ratio of 6%. By closely monitoring and maintaining this ratio, banks can promptly address potential liquidity concerns, instill investor and depositor confidence, and ensure they continue to meet their obligations even in the face of financial adversities. It serves as a pivotal balance between safeguarding the banks and allowing them to provide credit to customers, thereby maintaining the stability and fluidity of the entire economy.


1. JPMorgan Chase & Co.: As a large international bank, JPMorgan has to adhere to strict capital adequacy regulations. As of the second quarter of 2021, JPMorgan reported a Tier 1 capital ratio of 13.2%. This means it has a significant cushion of high-quality capital to guard against potential losses, far exceeding the minimum required 6% ratio, thus showing investors and clients the financial health and resilience of the bank.2. Citigroup: In 2018, Citigroup exhibited a strong Tier 1 capital ratio. Despite the returns of significant capital to shareholders through dividends and share buybacks that year, Citigroup maintained a Tier 1 capital ratio of approximately 12%. This illustrated that they’ve managed their risk and capital well for handling future financial distress.3. Barclays: During the 2008 financial crisis, Barclays had a Tier 1 capital ratio that fell below 5%, making it vulnerable to the economic downturn. This low capital buffer threatened the bank’s viability and forced it to seek additional capital to stay afloat. After several years of restructuring and shedding riskier assets, Barclays was able to rebuild its Tier 1 capital ratio to a much healthier position above 10% by 2018.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQ)

What is the Tier 1 Capital Ratio?

The Tier 1 Capital Ratio is a measure used by banks to determine their financial health and stability. It compares a bank’s core capital to its total risk-weighted assets.

What is considered as Tier 1 Capital?

Tier 1 Capital includes the book value of its stock, retained earnings, and reserves.

What do the values in the Tier 1 Capital Ratio signify?

If the Tier 1 Capital Ratio is high, it indicates that a bank could endure significant losses without failing. If the ratio is low, it suggests that the bank is not well-capitalized and could be at risk if losses occur.

How is risk-weighted assets calculated?

Risk-weighted assets are calculated by assigning weights to each asset class according to its risk- as determined by regulators- with riskier assets receiving higher weights.

What is a good Tier 1 Capital Ratio?

While appropriate levels can vary, regulators commonly set the minimum Tier 1 Capital Ratio at 6%.

What happens if a bank doesn’t meet the minimum Tier 1 Capital Ratio?

If a bank doesn’t meet the minimum Tier 1 Capital Ratio, it may be ordered to stop paying dividends and it’ll have to devise a plan to raise capital.

How does Tier 1 Capital Ratio differ from Total Capital Ratio?

Total Capital Ratio includes Tier 2 capital -which is of lower quality than Tier 1- in its computation, while the Tier 1 Capital Ratio only includes Tier 1 capital.

Related Finance Terms

  • Common Equity Tier 1 (CET1): The most important component of a bank’s Tier 1 capital, it comprises of ordinary shares and retained earnings.
  • Risk-Weighted Assets (RWAs): This term refers to an asset’s potential to bring financial loss. It is weighted based on credit risk and market risk.
  • Basel III: The global, voluntary regulatory standard on bank capital adequacy, stress testing, and market liquidity risk.
  • Capital Adequacy Ratio (CAR): A measure of a bank’s available capital expressed as a percentage of a bank’s risk-weighted assets.
  • Prudential Regulation Authority (PRA): A part of the Bank of England, responsible for the prudential regulation of banks, building societies, credit unions, insurers and investment firms.

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