This section is from the "Practical Banking" book, by Albert S. Bolles.
It is impossible to name exactly the amount of salary a young man may expect to receive. It depends a little upon the locality and size of the bank, and a great deal upon what the young man himself is. A moderate young man in a moderately-sized bank, generally has a salary very nicely fitted to him, while an energetic, talented young man, in a good institution, can be the recipient of almost any sum that he has the face to ask for. Some idea upon which to base expectations may be formed from a knowledge of the fact, that tellers' salaries range from $500 to $1,800 per annum; cashiers' from $800 to $5,000, and presidents' about the same.* In some banks the office of president is a mere sinecure; in such banks the president receives no salary, but takes it out in honor. Let a young man fix in his mind the salary that he thinks he ought to be worth, and then work for it, and he will generally receive it. A banker, from the nature of his position in the financial world, has often opportunities thrown in his way for making money besides his salary, but this should not be counted upon by a young man, for it is very uncertain. If a young banker is working for a name, a reputation, and,—which follows as a matter of course,—for a high salary, his best course is to keep himself free from anything like speculating, shaving or dabbling in stocks. He should engage in no other business but his bank, and he should keep himself as far as possible from any course in which there is the least possibility of becoming in any way involved or embarrassed.
There is less anxiety of mind in this profession than in most others. It is true that the banker has a great many cares, and his mind has about as much as it can well do, but there is none of that terrible anxiety of mind which waits upon the merchant who has his warehouses full of goods, prices falling, and money scarce. The merchant at times is elated by prosperity, and again he is weighed down by anxiety, and either extreme, or the transition from one to the other is very wearing; but the banker has at all times enough to think of. He is never troubled with the alternations of excitement and depression; his mind is constantly active, not overtasked, and consequently its action is always healthy. During business hours he works hard, but at night he can throw off all care, and devote himself, if he choose, to literary pursuits, and to self-improvement.
There are times in great commercial distress when confidence is destroyed, that banks are crowded and pressed very hard; but with ordinary management they can be carried safely through. No bank ever failed where there was good management and no speculation. All that is required is caution and prudence: but the most incessant exercise of caution and prudence will not amount to that anxiety which produces sleepless nights.
♦ Since this was written these salaries have increased until they are now (1884) about doubled.
A banker can have a great deal of time to devote to mental culture, and to the acquisition of useful information. He generally has his evenings to himself free from care, and much can be done by the improvement of such hours. His business is of such a nature that this is not incompatible with being first in his profession. There are some, however, who work night and day, and make slaves of themselves, but such are generally men who care but little for mental improvement, and whose whole aim seems to be to remain in a bank, and yet realize a treadmill. Let them work. They have the satisfaction of knowing that they are not always the best bankers. The best in any profession are those who have room enough in their brains for more than one idea, and who take time for something besides dollars and cents. A banker can, if he will apply himself, so cultivate his mind that he will shine as brightly in social life, and appear as well, even in literary circles, as men of liberal education.
These are some of the advantages of the banker's profession, and these are some of the inducements which are held out to those who wish to enter it.
A young man in order to succeed should maintain a straightforward course, both in his own affairs, and in the affairs of the bank; he should be possessed of a clear head, a mind not easily carried away by tempting offers for speculation, a disposition to receive very fair stories with considerable allowance; he should have urbanity combined with firmness and decision, and above all, he should have a deep-seated, stubborn passion for good security.
These are the traits which are absolutely necessary to insure success in banking. Without them, no young man should enter a bank. Without them, a young man should rather take himself to some bne of the other professions, where even a fool can sometimes make a happy hit. In banking there are no happy hits to be made; the life is one long, dead pull upon talent, energy, and perseverance.