"The customers ought always to be treated with civility and kindness, their business transacted promptly and cheerfully, and every inquiry regarding their accounts, or any matter of business, readily and satisfactorily explained. When an accommodation is to be declined, it ought to be done in as polite and inoffensive a manner as possible - the manner of a refusal being of paramount moment to the character of a manager.
"The shareholders, being, in other words, the proprietors of the bank, are to be received with that freedom and confidence which is due to their character as such, but without compromising or revealing to them either the business and accounts of each other, or of the customers of the bank.
"Next to being secret and cautious, a manager ought to be prompt and decided in all his measures, free from party influence, and firm in his purpose. A habit of promptitude and decision is very essential to the proper regulation of the business of a bank, and acquired by forethought and circumspection. It is, perhaps, a constitutional virtue which cannot be enjoyed by everyone in the same degree, but it is nevertheless a virtue which everyone may acquire by proper attention. Nothing makes a manager look more silly and contemptible than a hesitating, dubious, and capricious manner. His answer ought to be prompt and satisfactory; he should be sufficiently acquainted with business to say, at once, whether an act can be done or not, and should appear free from restraint, and not disposed to alter an opinion when once formed."1
IV. In joint-stock banks the administrative functions are usually distributed between the directors and the manager.
With reference to both private and joint-stock banks, the distribution of the administrative functions is a most important topic of inquiry. By what parties ought these functions to be exercised? - We have spoken of "the banker," as though a bank consisted of only one person, and this one person administered all the powers and functions of the bank. But few banks consist of only one person. One class of banks consists of two, three, four, five, six, or more persons, some or all of whom attend to the practical administration of the bank. Another class of banks consists of a great many, it may be of several hundred persons, who appoint some dozen or score of their own number to administer the bank on their behalf.
But how many soever the number of partners may be in a bank, the administrative functions are in fact practically
1 Bell's "Philosophy of Joint-stock Banking." exercised by a small number of persons. A private bank may consist of as many as six or more partners, but it is rarely, we believe, that so many as six are actually engaged in the business. When more than one are thus employed their duties may be distributed according to their seniority or other circumstances. In ordinary matters there may be a division of labour, and each partner may preside over a distinct department of the business. But in all important cases there is usually one leading partner who practically guides the others. When a bank has risen speedily to eminence, it has generally been through the talents of some one man. It does not follow that this one man did not receive great assistance from the advice or suggestions of his partners. It is the part of a wise man to avail himself of the knowledge and wisdom of others; and he will often gather much useful information from men far below himself in general talents. There is, perhaps, more uniformity, consistency, and energy in the proceedings of a bank managed by a few partners than by many. On the other hand, banks have sometimes been ruined by placing too much power in the hands of one or two of the partners.
In a joint-stock bank, though the number of directors may be large, the daily exercise of the administrative power is practically in the hands of a few persons. In some banks this power is vested solely in the manager; sometimes in one or two managing directors; sometimes is a permanent committee of two directors and the manager; and in other cases, in a changeable committee, on which each member of the board takes his rota of service for two or three weeks in succession. In all cases, however, the board of directors lay down the general principles on which the bank is to be administered; reports are made to them at their weekly meeting of the actual condition of the bank in all its departments, and all very important matters are reserved for their special consideration.
V. Some joint-stock banks have many branches.
When the law existed in England that no bank should have more than six partners, the branch system scarcely existed. In some cases, a bank had a branch or two a few miles distant, but no instance occurred of a bank extending itself throughout a county or a district. But with joint-stock banking arose the branch system - the head office was placed in the county town, and branches were opened in the principal towns and villages around. The credit of the bank being firmly established, its notes circulated freely throughout the whole district. The chief advantages of this system are the following: -
There is greater security to the public. The security of the whole bank is attached to the transactions of every branch; hence there is greater safety to the public than could be afforded by a number of separate private banks, or even so many independent joint-stock banks. These banks could have but a small number of partners - the paid-up capital and the private property of the partners must be comparatively small; hence the holder of a note issued by one of the independent joint-stock banks could have a claim only on that bank: but if that bank, instead of being independent, were a branch of a large establishment, the holder of a note would have the security of that large establishment; hence the branch system unites together a greater number of persons, and affords a more ample guarantee.