This section is from the "Practical Banking" book, by Albert S. Bolles.
The honor of a cashier and the honor of a woman are alike. Suspicion of either in the public mind is as fatal to reputation as convicted guilt. Stand by, stand for your honor, then, against all comers, and to the last. Preserve your own respect, though you be fed by the hand of public or of private charity. Napoleon, at the hour of his downfall, deposited the remains* of his fortune with Laffitte, and refused an offered and customary certificate, saying: "I know you —I hold you to be an honest man." The Paris banker, in the course of events, became a cabinet minister; but such a testimonial to his probity from a man whose estimate of human virtue was too low to be just, and who, at the moment he uttered it, was, as he imagined, the victim of faithlessness and treachery, will be remembered when the records of his political honors are torn and scattered. But yet, any man, in his own circle, may, if he will, have'nt said of him: "I know you—I hold you to be an honest man." My young friend—now starting upon a banker's career—burn these words deep into your memory!
* Five millions of francs.
As in some things there are marked distinctions between banks in different sections of the country, and between country and city banks in the same State, and corresponding differences in the duties of a cashier, it is obvious that no series of "suggestions" can be alike applicable to all. But I may still hope that the young and inexperienced officer will not fail to find some useful hints in the preceding remarks, whatever his particular position or special charge.
And while this may be so, the country cashier may yet need cautions and recommendations adapted to his peculiar official and social relations. Such, then, as I deem the most important, I shall briefly and respectfully offer. First, as it sometimes happens that the person selected for the executive department has had little or no experience in banking, and is to be connected with directors whose knowledge is as limited as his own, the duty of consulting well-informed officers of city banks is manifest. The country cashier is often alone. Without paying or receiving tellers, bookkeeper, or discount or collection clerks, but invested with the functions of all, skill, system, and an economical use of time, are indispensable to success. I have known gentlemen who, though possessing quick and clear perceptions, and almost every other natural endowment, were still, at the time of their election, incapable of opening or of properly keeping a single bank-book. Some of these, remarkably cautious in their habits of business, and profiting by mishaps, escaped serious losses, and, in the end, became accomplished officers; while others, more sanguine in temperament, and more self-confident, and unwilling to see novices, involved themselves in difficulties which caused them much mental disquietude and pecuniary embarrassment. Now, it is apparent at a glance, that both classes, had they started right, might have avoided a great deal of painful experience.
I commend to you, therefore, if not bred to banking, the sources of information, which are open to you, and to all who desire to increase their knowledge. Accuracy in the count of money is the first, accuracy in the keeping of accounts is the second, qualification in a country cashier; and, while you may acquire the first by practice, you may go wrong with your records all your life.
A small bank should be conducted on a plan as systematic and as regular as a large one. Experience has shown, I think, that bank accounts should be kept in "double entry," and that each department of bank business requires a separate book. Thus in an institution with a capital of only fifty thousand dollars, I consider that a general and deposit ledger, that books for cash, deposits, discounts, credits, collections and trial-balances, are as essential as in one of a million of dollars. And the same remark is true of stockholders' and directors' records, of a book to show the state of the bank, and of another to exhibit the paper to mature in any given week.
The general and the deposit ledger may be one; the former occupying some seventy-five or one hundred pages, and embracing accounts with things, the latter with persons. The cash should be settled daily at the close of business, when, also, a trial balance should be taken of the general ledger postings. On the last business day of the month, the depositors' accounts should be adjusted, and the balance of each be transferred to the trial-balance book to ascertain whether the deposit ledger has been correctly posted. The daily settlement of the cash—neglected in some country banks, unless the reform has been very recent—need occupy but a few minutes, since a vault-book accurately kept, leaves for actual count the cash in drawer only. "Memorandum checks," and similar vouchers—to say nothing of the grave consequences which some-times result from their use—are great pests in a cashier's drawer, and should not be allowed there, except in the most urgent cases. Some cashiers keep "ragged bills," never intended to be reissued, in vault for months, and even years; but the practice is attended with obvious risk and inconvenience, and should not exist.
As already intimated in another connection, your directors, however worthy and respectable as citizens and gentlemen, may be poorly versed in the science of banking, and may not, at first, appreciate the force and the reason of the rules which you deem necessary to adopt in transactions with them and with others. But evince no impatience. I assume that a majority of any and of every "Board " are men of honor, and mean to do right; and that, in explanations and conversations with yours, you have but to calmly point out the evils likely to arise from a course opposite to that which you insist upon, to obtain their approbation. Yet you yourself should be well assured that these rules are consonant to law, or are such as are imposed in well-regulated banks, or such as, in your peculiar position and relations, are imperatively demanded.