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Her? Oh, she's just a teller?

I went to do a security program for a financial institution one night, and was told that my audience would be varied - from the front line and officers, to operations and several of the directors from the board. Before the program, I was approached by a young woman, about 25 years old I'd guess, who asked me some questions about Currency Transaction Reports and suspicious transactions.

When she walked away, I turned to the gentleman who was my host, and said, "What a sharp person! What does she do at your bank?"

"Her?" he replied. "Oh, she's just a teller."

Way Back When
Back when some of us started in banking, the teller's position was to take deposits and cash checks and settle at the end of the day. If and when you got experienced enough, you were also trusted with loan and mortgage payments. After a long time, you were promoted to the "other side" of the banking office, where you learned to open accounts and type forms, and let people into their safe deposit boxes. That's when behind-the-window people were "?just a teller."

As I went through the program that night, I was thinking - Drawer limits, Community Reinvestment Act, Bank Secrecy Act, Expedited Funds Availability Act, extended holds, exemptions, Currency Transaction Reports, Office of Foreign Assets Control transactions, Suspicious Activity Reports, Kiting, Forgery, Counterfeiting, Robbery Response, Opening and Closing Procedures, Identification Documents, Cross Selling, Fraud - all are the responsibilities of that teller.

They Just Don't Get It
This particular bank was paying and treating tellers like they did 30 or 40 years ago. They had over a 50% turnover in their teller area (industry average is about 25%), and were suffering from fraud losses.

They just don't get it.

A few months later, I went back to the same area, but to a different bank. I was surprised to see my questioning "just a teller" young woman also at this session. Then I found I was there at her suggestion. She had been hired by this financial institution. And she was thrilled with her job. Seems she had applied at this bank some time before, but had to wait for an opening, which finally came about because a spouse of one of the bank's employees was transferred. This bank had very little turnover. Her new job? She was a teller! But making time and a half again what she had been making at the other bank. She also had more responsibility.

Big Difference
Again, my audience was completely diversified. But the difference in attitude was startling. I was interrupted many times by comments and questions. These people were all part of their financial institution's success, and they knew it. Management took the time to tell them so! And listened to their suggestions (which was why they called me!)

We're still losing billions of dollars in check fraud. We have customers who need to be reassured at the front line about Y2K. Our cross selling happens because of that front line person. The financial institution's success in the community rides on the shoulders of that front line.

And yet we still have people who will refer to them as, "?just a teller."

It's time to wake up, old timers!

Copyright © Bankers' Hotline. Originally appeared in Bankers' Hotline, Vol. 9, No. 6, 7/99

First published on 07/01/1999

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