Next in rank after the cashier is the paying teller who is the disbursing officer of the bank. He has immediate charge of the cash required for current business and is responsible for all out-going funds. The position, then, is one of great responsibility requiring a high order of ability and expertness in handling money and in judging people. The paying teller should be a man of irreproachable character and endowed with quick, sound judgment, patience and unwavering courtesy. Next to unflinching honesty the quality of unfailing courtesy is required of every bank employee whose duties bring him into contact with the public. The customer seldom sees the officers of the bank, and he is likely to judge the bank by the tellers and clerks whom he meets daily in making deposits and drawing cash.
Each morning before business opens the teller takes from the vaults, to which, perhaps, he alone has access, the amount of money that he expects to need during the day. If necessary he may draw additional money from the receiving teller during the day, giving the proper receipt for the same. His money drawer is divided into sections each containing notes of different denominations. For convenience in counting and handling the bills are tied up in packages of convenient amounts, a package of fives containing $250, a package of twenties $1,000, and so on. For large payments on pay-rolls or to banks these packages are not recounted, but for ordinary payments over the counter they must of course be broken. Coins, too, are made up into rolls of convenient amounts, which are broken up as required. Some banks use an ingenious machine, called the "automatic cashier," in which coins of the several denominations are so arranged that by pressing a key the required coin or amount appears. It is evident that the paying teller must be familiar with the different kinds of money and expert in handling it. A wrong amount paid out by mistake may mean serious loss to the bank.
The principal duty of the paying teller is paying out money on the checks of depositors. In doing so, he must have regard to at least three things: first, is the check genuine; second, is the drawer's account good for the amount; third, is the person presenting the check entitled to the money. The teller must be careful not to pay raised or forged checks, for when the money is paid out recovery is difficult and the bank rather than the depositor is usually responsible for the loss. The paying teller should be sufficiently familiar with the signatures of depositors to detect any forgery or irregularity. Obviously no teller can be sure of the signature of every one of the bank's customers. To aid him he has access at all times to the signature book or card which every customer is asked to sign upon opening an account. Frequently checks are presented bearing seyeral indorsements. If one of these indorsements be forged and the bank pays the check it is liable to the true owner. The holder of a check bearing a forged indorsement is not a rightful possessor even though he is innocent of the forgery. The bank, therefore, has no more right to pay him than to pay upon a forged signature. To guard against the raising of their checks many large firms now use a machine which perforates or cuts out of the check the amount in dollars for which it is drawn.
The paying teller keeps himself as familiar as possible with the accounts of all depositors, to avoid unnecessary overdrafts. Many customers have large balances at all times, and the teller soon gets to know these and honors their checks without hesitation. Even if a check is paid for an amount in excess of the balance, the teller known that it will be made good at once. The checks of the de positor who has a small and fluctuating balance have to be watched more carefully; payment of overdrafts by such customers is always attended with risk.
The paying teller should be sure that the presenter of the check is the rightful person to receive the money. A depositor has the right to draw his checks either to some, one's order or to bearer, and the bank must respect that right and at the same time protect the interests of the depositor. If a check is made payable to "bearer" or is indorsed in blank, the teller may safely pay the presenter unless there is reason to suspect that he is not a bona fide holder or owner. Though the bank cannot legally require the holder of a bearer check to indorse it, the custom is to require indorsement. The bank then has a voucher or re ceipt for the payment in case of dispute. Furthermore, since the bank is under legal responsibility to the depositor to pay out no funds on his account except to the proper payee or his order, it has the right to demand that a stranger presenting a. check shall be identified. Checks sometimes conic to the bank through the mail or the clearing house without indorsement. Checks coming through the clearing house each day are examined by the paying teller or by the individual bookkeeper to check up signatures and indorsements and to be sure that there are sufficient funds to the credit of the drawers. If the funds are not sufficient the checks should be returned to the banks from which they came with the cause of non-payment noted on the check, thus, "not sufficient funds," "not suff." or "n. s. f." A better practice is not to mark the check but to use a printed slip, giving the proper term, which is pinned or pasted to the check. It is usual to consult the cashier before returning an overdraft check. It may be that the drawer is a very good customer, who has by mistake overdrawn his account, or whom the bank for some reason or another does not wish to embarrass. In such a case the bank may hold the check and notify the customer at once of the overdraft. Sometimes it happens that a check is presented which would overdraw the account as shown on the individual ledger, but which, because of a recent loan or deposit or collection that has not yet gone through the books, should not be refused. The bank is responsible for any loss that a depositor may suffer through its dishonor of his check when he has funds in the bank to meet it.
Frequently checks are presented not for payment but for certification or acceptance. Certification is made by writing across the face of the check or stamping the word "Accepted"' or "Good when properly indorsed" with the date and name of the teller. The latter form of certification is used generally when the check is improperly indorsed, yet the presenter wants to have it accepted at once in order to make sure of final payment. With the certified cheek in his possession he is sure that the amount will be set aside to meet the check whenever presented, and he can take his time in securing the proper indorsement. Sonic banks will not certify checks at all, and most of them refuse to certify for small amounts, preferring to accept the check and issue for it a cashier's check, bank draft or due bill. This lessens the danger of forgeries or alterations, and relieves the bank of the necessity of holding the amount of the certified check as a kind of special fund reserved to meet it. A record must be kept of all certified or accepted checks for they are at once charged to the depositor. National banks are forbidden by law to certify checks for amounts exceeding the drawer's balance, but the law is not strictly enforced. Banks that practice over-certification do it because it pays. Depositors who ask for this favor are expected to keep a large balance in the bank which it can loan at a profit. The more conservative banks which permit over-certification protect themselves by requiring security in the form of stocks and bonds. This, of course, is only another form of a bank loan, and may be perfectly safe Over-certification as practiced by the Wall Street banks will be discussed more fully under the heading of collateral loans.1
Sometimes the drawer of a check wants to stop payment on it, for some good reason. If he advises the bank not to pay that particular check it is bound to observe his direction. The paying teller, therefore, should always have before him a list of these stopped checks. The teller must also watch for post-dated checks, that is checks dated ahead, which should not be presented or paid prior to the date written on the check. It is permissible for the holder of a check to insert the date when by an oversight it has been omitted. The holder of a check should present it for payment within a reasonable time. The general rule is that a check drawn on a bank in the city where the payee lives must be presented for payment on the day of its receipt or the day following. Ordinarily a check is deposited the day it is received or the next day, and is presented to the drawee bank through the clearing house the following day, or if the drawee bank is in another city the depositor's bank sends it forward promptly for collection.
1 Sections 132, 133.
Sometimes a "stale" check is presented bearing a date weeks or months past. If the drawer has funds in the bank it is a valid claim and must be paid. But since checks are usually presented promptly for payment the teller should satisfy himself as to the cause of the delay.
The paying teller must keep certain records or books. The amounts of all checks paid are entered on the check "scratcher." All paid checks should be cancelled by being stamped or punched with the date of payment. Each day after banking hours the teller makes up the "teller's proof" testing the correctness of his work. His records show the amount of cash with which he began in the morning. During the day he may have made payments upon cashier's orders or in cashing checks presented directly by other banks or in settlement of a "debit balance" due to the clearing house, in addition to cashing checks upon his own bank. On the other hand he may have received cash by transfers from the receiving teller or there may be a "credit balance" from the clearing house to be added to his cash. The balance of these receipts and payments must "prove," that is, correspond with his cash. Some banks keep a "Teller's Settlement Book" showing the cash balance at the beginning of the day, the various amounts received from different sources, the sums paid out on checks, etc., and the balance on hand. This cash balance is itemized to show the different kinds of money and the amount of each. If the teller's proof does not balance to the cent the difference is entered as "over" or "short." Finally the teller makes up a slip or schedule on which he enters all the cash of various kinds - gold coin, gold certificates, "legals," national bank notes; with the amounts of each and the total.
Paying Teller's Proof.
In smaller banks one teller may be able to perform the duties of both payer and receiver, but in some of the large-banks several paying tellers are required to handle the business, and the receiving tellers and other department clerks may need similar assistance.