This section is from the "Practical Banking" book, by Albert S. Bolles.
The number of letters daily received by a bank having a large correspondence may be from two hundred to two thousand. Most of them are formal, containing a statement of enclosures, and can be easily answered. Printed forms are used in most cases both in sending such enclosures, and in acknowledging their receipt. Mere acknowledgments are not usually copied.
All the checks received in the morning letters which can be sent to the Clearing-house are put in the package which is to be sent there, as will be explained hereafter. The amount thus received daily in some cases is very large, running into the millions.
A cashier of one of the best-conducted banks in New York City has thus described the usual daily routine of his business. After examining a dozen papers to which the bank subscribes, he looks around to see that all the clerks are on hand and are preparing the exchanges for the Clearing-house. By a few glances he can tell whether the work is progressing satisfactorily. If a vacant place is seen, then it is presumed that a clerk is absent, and somebody must be found to supply his place. In the morning, almost all the clerks, except the bookkeepers and the heads of the departments, are engaged in preparing the exchanges. In that bank the letters are so numerous that a large force is necessary in order to get the exchanges ready in time, and a vacancy must be speedily filled if possible. Sometimes he is obliged to assist himself. If a clerk does not appear within ten minutes past nine he is regarded late.
* See the opinion of Ch. J. Waite in Savings Bank v. Parmlee, U. S, Supreme Court, 1877.
The special letters are brought to the cashier, and those requiring immediate attention are answered at once; others at a more convenient time. Then letters containing remittances are brought in from the bookkeepers. Those requiring special attention are laid on one side, and the instructions they contain are entered in a special letter book for the use of the corresponding clerk. For example, if an advice concerning a payment is requested, it is the duty of the corresponding clerk to make the necessary advice. The last duty which the latter performs in the day is to examine his special letter book, for the purpose of assuring himself that all letters requiring special attention on his part have been answered.
When the directors meet, as we have seen, the cashier meets with them. Besides, he examines loans secured by collateral, to reassure himself of the sufficiency of the security, or perhaps with a view of calling the loan, if the collateral that is securing payment be of a kind which the bank does not wish to hold longer. He also examines the balance books and directs all the detail of the bank, keeping himself informed concerning the business done. Such are the leading features of his daily business, interspersed with frequent calls and interruptions. The afternoon hours are not so pressing, and the duties are more varied.
When the money market is "easy," the duties of a cashier are very agreeable. The departments of the bank move along harmoniously. The dealers call and transact their business, and go away in good humor. If they want to get notes discounted this is done promptly. Very often social topics are pleasantly blended with their negotiations. But when the market shows signs of tightening, then these pleasant daily scenes are quickly changed. The amount of paper offered for discount is suddenly doubled, and the amount discounted is reduced one-half. Merchants are not satisfied with their usual preparations for future payments. They are determined to get more ready money, if possible, and eagerly demand more loans. These are the times that test the ability of the bank manager, and which prove his fitness or unfitness for his position.
One of the duties of a cashier is to increase in every proper way the business of the bank. The banking business in this respect does not differ from any other. The profits in the business in most banks are made on the deposits. To increase these, therefore, is the ambition of all concerned in the enterprise, and especially of those who are the most active and responsible in its management. New accounts are eagerly sought. While, however, this is true, no well-conducted bank will blindly open an account with any person. He must be properly identified and introduced, and his character must be ascertained. Some banks will not take the accounts of persons introduced by a clerk of their own, for the reason that it is possible for him to be a confederate in some plan with the introducer to defraud the bank. The clerk might be enabled to give him a fictitious credit or in some way assist him in defrauding the institution. If, therefore, a clerk should introduce a customer, an additional introduction would also be required. If he were a merchant, the introduction of another merchant would be needful. If the applicant were not engaged in business, he might present such facts as would satisfy the cashier concerning his worthiness without further investigation. If the cashier should decide to open an account with him, he would be required to sign his name in a book kept for that purpose. All that the applicant has said concerning himself, and whatever can be found out about him afterward, is recorded in a book which has been already described.
It is not possible for the cashier to supervise the books of a bank personally, but he should look at them frequently enough to satisfy himself of their correctness. Clerks sometimes get careless and negligent, and may carry over their work from day to day, or portions of it, if they are not watched. A supervision of this kind is needed in order to maintain the best discipline. Without it, clerks too often become careless and inattentive and delay their work in various ways. A cashier should have an intimate knowledge of the theory of accounting maintained by his bank, so that when he examines any book he will be able at once to understand it. We do not suppose that every bank has such a cashier, but unquestionably it should have. Bank-booking is generally quite simple, and no very high order of ability is required to master it. Banks differ from one another in many details of doing business, but in no case are these difficult to comprehend.