This section is from the "Practical Banking" book, by Albert S. Bolles.
The depositors' accounts, in an institution doing a general banking business, absorb much the greatest attention of the book-keepers. Eternal vigilance is a prime virtue in their manipulation. Considering their numbers, the infinite multiplicity of items they represent, and the vast sums received and disbursed upon them, the small number of mistakes made in their keeping is worthy of consideration. It demonstrates the possibility of wonderful accuracy. The errors, at least those discovered, will not average one in a thousand transactions.
There is, perhaps, an unusual degree of accuracy exhibited in the work upon this class of accounts. The reason is obvious. An error, no matter how slight, is almost certain to be discovered by the depositor. Whether or not the error is reported to the bank officials, such a discovery is painful to the bookkeeper. It forms a basis for suspecting other blunders; it may, too, involve serious difficulty. These are some of the penalties constantly in view, and they, no doubt, exert an influence.
In all branches of an accountant's work the probability that an error, if made, will be discovered by some one other than himself will invariably cause some weight upon vigilance and thoughtfulness. Where an error, if made, will be detected by its author, as is the case in some parts of the bookkeeper's work, and may be corrected before reaching others' eyes, a feeling of indifference is more apt to manifest itself. This suggests the importance of rotating the force employed in large banks, so that the work of each one will be examined by some one of the other employees. In England it is almost the universal practice to have a professional accountant go over, at stated periods, all the work of a bank. The plan is not much followed in this country, but it is being discussed in many quarters. Experience has shown that the examinations made by Government officials are not a sufficient guarantee to stock-holders and depositors that the published exhibits are faithful showings of the banks condition.
One cause that has had a tendency to bring about a high standard of accuracy in the treatment of depositors' accounts is that of special study in this direction. Much attention and skill have been directed to devising plans for keeping this class of accounts. We will presently illustrate some of these inventions. But let us first consider the elementary functions of a depositor's account.