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You've Come A Long Way, Baby

Have you been around the banking industry for 40 or more years? Evidently 40 to 50 years ago it used to be really easy.I remember my Dad talking about how he started in the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia as a young man - sorting checks on the midnight shift by hand, so they could be delivered through the exchange by runner the next morning.

There were two accounts you could have at a bank, a checking and a savings. The checking account was on the books under your name - there were no account numbers on the bottom of the check. Deposits were recorded by pen in a large ledger kept by the one teller's window. Banks really DID check the signature on the bottom of every check they paid - and filed them by hand, by name. The savings account amount deposited or withdrawn was written, by hand, in a passbook, and in a different ledger. Credit cards, of course, were unheard of at that time.

Most of the tellers (called clerks) were men. Women didn't really take over the majority of those jobs until World War II.Training? Probably all OTJ (On The Job) by the person whose job you were taking. And you usually had the standard two weeks to learn your duties.

What a different world we live in now. The last time I researched, there were 37 different checking accounts you could open in one of the larger banks. I haven't looked at the savings offerings, but there are probably close to half that many different arrangements there. And if you count all the tie-ins with credit cards, debit cards, money markets, overdraft protection, etc., you begin to realize just how far we've come.

The training is different, too. Even the beginner, the new kid on the block, has to receive more training before greeting a customer than that clerk 40 years ago ever received in his whole career. Rules and regulations have become so complicated that many financial institutions hire professional trainers, rather than chance doing it wrong and bringing the wrath of the examiners down on their heads.

The remarkable thing is that we're doing it! From Reg CC to OFAC to the Privacy Act to the Anti Money Laundering Act - our folks are learning, absorbing, applying, and explaining many of the regulations not only to new people, but also to customers. While writing the training pages on methods of training, I was struck with the number of subjects that now have to be learned before a bank employee is considered proficient. No wonder it's estimated that it is a full year before a new employee is making money for the bank. Before that time is assumed to be a cost factor.

The other remarkable thing is that while the labor pool is more limited than it used to be in recent years, and though we complain that some new-hires just don't "get it", there are others that prove we are still attracting quality people who have the capability of learning all the details they have to know. It's just a good thing you're so smart!

Copyright © 2001 Bankers' Hotline. Originally appeared in Bankers' Hotline, Vol. 11, No. 7, 7/01

First published on 07/01/2001

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