Bank officers are in charge of every aspect of retail banking (as distinguished from investment banking-see separate listing on page 224), from making certain that accounting procedures are followed, to approving loans, to marketing the bank to potential customers. Bank trust officers act as trust and estate managers; loan officers manage, evaluate, and distribute loans; operations officers handle the interface between banking institutions and technology, such as computer systems; and marketing officers identify customer needs and evaluate service. They all work together to ensure the proper functioning of the bank on a day-to-day basis. The intricate networks of responsibility are internally reviewed and subject to the supervision of the U.S. government. Interaction is marked by a sense of professionalism; while few bank officers cited “closeness” as a way of describing their relationships with their coworkers, many said that they could and did rely on them every day.
Each type of officership requires a different set of strengths. For example, those who become trust and estate managers must have a strong understanding of tax implications, an ability to anticipate future problems, and excellent communication skills as they will work closely with clients. Loan officers, on the other hand, must have an understanding of statistics and strong judgment skills, anticipating a potential borrower’s future ability to repay a loan. Our respondents emphasized the enormous responsibility most banking officers face. “You have to make real decisions that have real responsibilities attached, and you’ve got to be smart [about them]” mentioned one. Beginning employees aren’t thrown into the industry without training or supervision, but they are given a surprising amount of power for people with little work experience. Banking requires an agility with numbers, good organizational skills, sound interpersonal skills, and a strong fundamental work ethic. Those in the banking industry ranked the intensity of their day-to-day jobs in the top 10 percent of all professions; this career isn’t for someone who pines for long vacations and sinecures.
While tellers and occasionally bank managers can find work with as little as a high school education, most senior bank officers have at least a bachelor’s degree (most large employers look favorably on finance, banking, economics, accounting, and marketing majors), if not an MBA. International banks may request proof of language skills. Many request work experience that demonstrates a facility with numbers or the ability to handle a wide area of responsibility. Bank officers come in contact with confidential information every day, so new hires may be required to sign nondisclosure agreements. Upon hire, many bank officers spend three weeks to six months training for their positions. Officers must have a solid understanding of financial rules and regulations, and many firms require that new employees pass an in-house test which assesses their knowledge before they are allowed to begin their positions.
Retail bankers who yearn for higher risk and challenges (and higher rewards with success) become investment bankers. The more risk-averse move to accounting fields where responsibilities are limited and tasks more discrete. A number of former bank officers enter the securities industry and become brokers, traders, and salesmen. A few operations officers move into the computer industry and become programmers, operations specialists, or hardware specialists.