25 OCTOBER 1930, Page 31

Banking as a Career

IN view of the many changes which have taken place in recent years in banking, as in other professions and businesses, I am often being asked whether I consider banking at the present time offers good opportunities for modern- youths.

Questions such as these are always difficult to answer without a full appreciation of the spirit which prompts the enquiry. Those who have had long business experience are, I fancy, pretty well familiar with the type of parent or youth who makes searching enquiries as to the prospects in a particular situation which may be available. Usually the enquiry, correctly interpreted, means whether, subject to .good behaviour, there is a sure prospect of fairly rapid progress upwards to responsible positions at a high salary. . How to bring. home to parent or youth an appreciation of the fact that the matter rests almost entirely with the youth is usually difficult. Of course, there are occasions and there are circumstances when the employer knows perfectly well that the opportunities for advancement in his particular business must necessarily be small, and he will usually be quite frank with the eager young applicant and advise him to consider the situation, if he secures it, as one giving a start and some experience rather than an assurance of permanent employment. These considerations, however, do certainly not apply to banking, where one of the attractions consists of the permanent character of the employment. Indeed, that circumstance; combined with a good commencing salary, not too long hours, considerate treatment in illness, and, finally, a pension at the age of sixty or sixty-five, count among the attractions of banking as a career.


Nevertheless, I find at the present time that there is a disposition in many quarters to regard the prospects of banking as a career to he less promising now than in the past. That view is, I think, based partly upon the idea that because banks have now assumed such colossal proportions the average youth is but one in a crowd and becomes, as it were, part of some colossal machine where little is requires! in the way of real mental ability and where only mediocrity and reasonable accuracy arc needed. Moreover, this view has, I think, gained in strength in recent years owing to the extent to which many of the operations of banking have become mechanized, and I know there is a wholesome dread on the part of youths entering a bank to-day lest, by a display of skill in handling machines, t hey should become permanently attached to them, to the detriment of their real progress in the bank. And even quite apart from possibilities in that direction, there is the feeling that promotion is so much a matter of sheer routine that individual ability and even individual willingness count for little in the matter of promotion.


On the principle that a youth should take all the pros and eons into consideration before choosing his career, I am far from suggesting that banking, like all

highly organized businesses employing large staffs, is not open to these and other drawbacks, but I think that for an ambitious youth the career of banking should hold out much promise, always making one stipulation which is applicable to all businesses. It is a stipulation to which the youthful reader may take exception, but I will guarantee that in nine cases out of ten it offers the key to ultimate advancement ; and to happiness and contentment, all the time. The stipulation is that the youth entering a bank must be determined, first and last, to be more intent on giving out than upon receiving, -other, of course,- than is concerned with the acquisition of knowledge and experience. Un- fortunately, many conceive that prosperity in business is based upon giving out as little and receiving as much as is possible. It is said that to obtain any high position in a big bank the individual must be prepared to push with both elbows, but the occasions probably will be rare.


One of the advantages of the banking career, however, in my judgment, to the youth who is determined to suc- ceed, and to succeed along the lines I have suggested, is that he enters a profeSsion or a business where it is possible for him to obtain an enormous amount of know- ledge of his business in his spare time. During the early years, when the youth is engaged in the simple and often rather monotonous duties connected with banking routine, it is possible for him, through reading and attending bankers' examination classes, to obtain a knowledge of the theory of banking and of the economic problems with which banking has to deal, which, coupled with what he hears and sees going on every day in the bank, is fitting him each year for responsibilities later on. But, of course, in banking, as in other businesses, everything depends upon the individual and largely upon what is done in the spare time. I am afraid that many young men in our large banks, say, of the age of twenty-three, if they were asked to say exactly what services banking really per- formed for the country, and what was the precise nature of the problems with which bank managers and bank directors were confronted, would be hard put to it to give an intelligent reply. Not so, however, the young man who has simply taken the trouble to use his first five years of occupation as a junior banker by taking advantage of the innumerable opportunities offered to-day for education in the theory and practice of banking, and who has not only made a study of political economy, but by a constant perusal of his daily newspaper and of a weekly journal like the Economist has constantly related his studies to the daily events as observed during the performance of his own duties. Knowledge is power everywhere, and no amount of official routine or red tape can possibly prevent those possessed of knowledge from making their power felt. Where, however, I would emphasize the advantage of banking as' a career to some others is that it lies so largely within the power of each individual to acquire a knowledge of what may be termed the practical part of the business in which he is engaged.


Largely in consequence of the claims made by internal and external guilds, I am afraid it is true that the rises in salaries in our banks during the early years of the banking career are fixed on a pretty rigid scale, and although, as a matter of fact, those increases are admit- tedly on a generous scale, I regret their rigidity because it is unfortunately true that until a certain rate of salary has been reached the possibility of expressing appreciation of extra zeal and ability on the part of youthful members of banking staffs in pecuniary form seem to have been rendered almost impossible by reason of the semi-Trade Union regulations.


Moreover, in this respect I am inclined to think that prospects of advancement in the future for the bank clerk may be better than in the past. With so much of the mechanical part of banking performed by girls or by machines, there should be the greater opportunity for advancement at an earlier age to the more Important responsibilities, while the enormous number of branches now opened all over the kingdom give more numerous opportunities for. poSitions of managers, assistant mane-

gers, and chief clerks. Not only so, but it is just these times of difficulty and change following upon the War which offer opportunities for those who have the will and the wit to seize them. A right apprehension of how banking systems and banking facilities may best serve not merely- the interests of bank shareholders, but of the whole community, and yet at the same time how the traditions of sound banking may also be maintained. These are the problems with which the banker of the future will be called upon to deal. The banker of the past has left a goodly heritage of a sound banking system ; the banker of the present has maintained the past tradi- tions throughout a period of unprecedented strain, and there are now arising new problems and new situations with which it will be for the banker of the future to deal.

The youth, therefore, who to-day enters upon his banking career no matter how humble and perhaps humdrum may be his commencing duties may well take for his inspiration " Who knoweth whether thou art not called to the (service) for such a time as this ?