A service which the Canadian banks render the country, and which is usually but poorly appreciated, is the branch service. It speaks well for their progressiveness in this connection when the number of branches is compared with those of Great Britain or elsewhere. According to the Bankers' Magazine, during a recent five-year period, Canadian branches were increased fifty per cent while in Great Britain the increase was only fifteen per cent. Furthermore, these statistics show that Great Britain has one bank for every 5,116 inhabitants, while Canada has one for every 2,847 people. Thus, according to population, the bank offices in Canada are nearly double those of Great Britain. It must be remembered that the Canadian banks open branches under a great deal heavier expense and more inconvenience than their English confreres, and a branch is more likely to remain an expensive burden in Canada for a longer period than a similar branch in the old country. There are few villages in England which cannot show a fair proportion of affluent residents either living in the village or occupying the neighboring country houses, whereas in Canada a new branch generally means more loans than deposits with which to start. Were it not for the circulation privileges the expense would be a serious deterrent to the practice of opening up branches, especially in newly settled localities.
It has been argued that there is a great economy in the branch system thru the fact that there is only one executive for a large number of branches as compared with the individual executives required for the American national banks. This economy, great tho it is, is partly offset by the increased cost of operating branches, owing more particularly to the non-concentration of the clerical work. In other words, a teller or ledger-keeper, for instance, in a big office can easily put thru four or five times more work than he would be called upon to do in a smaller office. This statement is substantiated by figures the writer obtained from one of the leading American banks where for the past ten years the average number of men per million dollars deposited has held steadily at about four and six-tenths, whereas Canadian banks average twelve or thirteen men per million dollars of deposit.
Very interesting statistics concerning the business of a branch can be derived from the books. A progressive record of all useful data should be made and compared either annually or semi-annually, such as total turnover, number of items passing thru the different departments, number and aggregate salary of men employed, amount of stationery used, average amount of deposits, loans for the year and other information of similar nature. These figures are generally called for by the head office, but in any case their comparison with previous years is invaluable to a branch manager who aims to keep expenses within a proper ratio to the business transacted.
As the main work in an office consists in handling the loans and deposits, a simple but valuable test of this ratio is to find the percentages which salaries and expenses bear to the combined total of the average loans and deposits. It is interesting to note how sensitive these percentages are. It is possible to account for any change over the previous year or half-year. An increase, for instance, in the expense percentage over the previous year would probably be due to some extraordinary expenses for repairs or the like. An increase in the salary percentage might show that the staff employed was getting more expensive than the business warranted, and steps should be taken to exchange for lower salaried men where possible.
The normal tendency of both percentages is constantly downward. Every upward movement should be inquired into closely.