This section is from the "Practical Banking" book, by Albert S. Bolles.
Having described the duties of the cashier, we will describe those of the paying teller, which are regarded as next in importance. He is frequently called the first teller. Whenever the cashier is promoted, the paying teller usually succeeds to his place. It is sometimes maintained, however, that the general bookkeeper and the corresponding clerk ought to have an equally good chance for the office.
The paying teller receives a higher salary than any other clerk, and the general bookkeeper the next highest. The paying teller's salary is larger, because he is trusted with more funds, and because the responsibility put on him to scrutinize signatures and to pay money is peculiar and very great.
To him is committed the custody and disbursement of the funds of the bank. The amount of money in his keeping in a large bank may amount to several millions of dollars. In such a bank several apartments in the vault are appropriated to his exclusive use. A cashier said to the writer not long since that in his bank an average amount of two million dollars was kept. The responsibility of keeping it was too great for one man. The vault where it was kept was divided into compartments. The paying teller had three, the receiving teller one, the note teller one, the collection clerk one, the discount clerk one, and the loan clerk two, and one was assigned to the cashier. Two locks were placed on each of two of the three compartments assigned to the paying teller. The combination of one lock was known only to the cashier, and the combination of the other only to the paying teller. Consequently neither person could open the compartments without the knowledge of the other. In these compartments was kept the greater part of the reserve of the bank. In the third compartment, which had only one lock, the paying teller kept the balance of his cash, which changed from day to day, and which necessarily must be under his control. The cashier knew every combination except those of the paying teller.
The paying teller is therefore the sole guardian of his cash. Nobody ever thinks of invading his compartments; but there are times when this may be necessary. He may be taken sick, and in that event another person must open the compartments to get the funds for carrying on the business of the bank. There are times, too, when investigations are made, annually or otherwise, all the compartments are opened, and their contents are examined. But, except on such occasions, or when fraud is suspected, the teller's compartments are not opened unless he is present. The reader can well understand why such strictness prevails. If the cashier were accustomed to going to them, if any loss should occur, it might be very difficult to trace. The paying teller, therefore, has sole charge of his compartments, and alone is responsible when losses arise.
The paying teller reaches the bank about nine o'clock in the morning. He unlocks his compartments, and the porter assists him, if necessary, in carrying to his desk the money which is likely to be wanted during the day. His compartment is then locked, and he returns to his desk.
The different kinds of money paid by him are familiar to every one. It consists principally of United States notes and National bank notes. The former are issued by the Government, and are more frequently called "greenbacks;" the latter notes are made by the banks themselves. Then there is coin,—gold, silver—"the dollar of the daddies,"—and minor coins. Silver certificates are also paid, and less frequently gold certificates. They represent the amount of gold or silver specified on their face in the possession of the Treasury department, and which can always be obtained by presenting these certificates to the United States Treasurer at Washington, or to any assistant treasurer.* To facilitate payments, the money drawer is divided into sections which contain notes of different denominations. A package of fives contains two hundred and fifty dollars. A package of tens five hundred dollars. A package of twenties one thousand dollars. There are other packages for varying amounts. When a check is presented for the amount of any packet, it is delivered without recounting. For intermediate amounts, of course, the packets must be opened.
All payments of money are made by one teller; consequently all the exchanges sent to the Clearing-house must appear in his accounts. It may be stated here that this is composed of the checks on other banks taken on deposit, and also those which are received in letters from other banks. Formerly, it was the duty of the paying teller to receive the exchanges in the morning, and to prepare them for the clearing house. This, however, is now the duty of the third teller, though sometimes performed by the second or receiving teller. In the largest banks the business, of course, is more subdivided than in the smaller ones. But in all cases the exchanges, by whomsoever prepared, are charged to the first teller. On this topic more will be said hereafter.
* There are nine assistant treasurers in the United States.
At ten precisely the teller is ready for the business of the day, which consists in paying checks of depositors of the bank. These checks are usually given by depositors to other persons, but they also draw money themselves from the bank. In any case, an order or check is necessary to get it.
It is a good rule when drawing a check on a bank or banker to make it payable to the order of an individual, firm, or institution, as the case may be. By this means the drawer is saved from the risk of loss, in case the holder of the check loses it—a risk to which all holders of checks payable to bearer are subject.