It need hardly be observed that some posts in a bank are more important than others, and it is always desirable that the most clever men should occupy the most important posts. This object is desirable, but how is it to be attained?
The three main divisions of employment in a London bank are-the cashiers' department-the accountants' department-and the tellers', or out-door department. All the clerks enter in the first instance in the tellers' department, and their first duties comprise the collection of the payment of bills. The senior tellers are occupied within doors in various duties connected with the out-door operations. From this department, as vacancies occur, the clerks are promoted to higher posts in either the cashiers' or the accountants' department.1
The Cashiers' Department-The cashiers of a bank stand at the counter, and attend to the public. These officers, in Scotland, are called tellers; but in Scotland their duties are less important, as tellers pay no cheques until they have been marked by the accountant, who is their superior officer. We should form a very inadequate idea of a cashier iu a London bank if we considered him only as a mere counter of money. Quickness in counting money is indeed one very necessary qualification. But besides this he should have such a mental organization that he can recollect the general average of each customer's balance, so as to be able to pay their cheques without a too frequent reference to the ledger-keeper. He should also possess a quickness of eye in detecting forged signatures-a self-posession, so as to be cool and collected when the counter is thronged with people-a command of temper, so as not to be irritated by undeserved reproach-and not only a general courtesy of manner towards the public, but a peculiar urbanity towards the customers of the bank, with a readiness and an anxiety to promote their convenience in any matter on which they may require information or advice. In fact, it may justly be said, that there is no class of clerks on which the reputation of a bank with the public so much depends as on the cashiers. And hence, in London banks, those clerks who are deemed the quickest, the most able, and the most gentlemanly, are usually promoted to this office.
1 It is of course in large banks, where there is necessarily a great subdivision of labour, that these three departments exist in a separate form. In smaller banks, though the duties are the same, yet one clerk may, in one day, perform duties belonging to each of the three departments.
The Accountants' Department refers to the keeping of the books and the accounts. The main qualifications for the clerks in this department are-good handwriting, accuracy in figures, and method in the arrangement of their work. Slowness is no positive disqualification, provided it be associated, as it often is, with application and perseverance. An accountant is not compelled to do any given quantity of work within a given time. By a proper arrangement of his duties he can usually contrive to keep himself pretty equally employed during the whole of the day, and on busy occasions he can perform what remains in the evening, after the hours of public business. A steady perseverance is of the first importance. But we must distinguish between those qualities required in the clerks of the accountants' department, and those required in the accountant himself.
The chief accountant in a bank is not a mere bookkeeper. It is one thing to keep a set of books previously prepared and arranged, and another to frame a set of books, or a new system of book-keeping, adapted for any operation that is proposed to be carried on. In the latter case, mental powers are required that are by no means common. And even where a system is established, the chief accountant of a bank will often have occasion to consider the best way of passing certain transactions through the books-of framing abstracts of operations which the books may not immediately supply-of making difficult calculations, and of examining lengthy and complicated accounts, and exhibiting them with clearness and brevity. A good system of book-keeping, and a clear-headed accountant, would have prevented many a bank from stopping payment. From this statement of the qualifications of cashiers and accountants, it will appear that most clerks will be more fitted for one office than the other, and it is desirable that each clerk should be placed in the department for which he is best adapted. "Where there is no peculiar adaptation, and where there is no marked difference among the clerks, the promotion should go according to seniority-not seniority in regard to age, but seniority according to the time they have been in the bank. But it will often happen, not only in the first, but also in subsequent steps of advancement, that the clerk who is entitled to a vacant post by length of service, is not so well qualified for it as some of his juniors. But even in this case, the individual should not be passed over, if he can perform the duties with an average degree of efficiency. Should he, however, be wholly unqualified, or fall below mediocrity in his qualifications for the office, there should be no hesitation in promoting over him some other clerk better adapted for the office. As, however, all such cases will give rise to some suspicion of favouritism, and as the party who is passed over is sure to think himself unfairly treated, it is desirable that the clerk thus promoted should possess such a marked superiority over the other, that no doubt can exist of the justice and propriety of the arrangement.