The books are balanced every night, before the clerks leave the bank. But mistakes will necessarily occur during the day, and to discover these will occupy a little time. The total amount of error is called "the difference;" and to endeavour to discover the error is called "searching for the difference." Those clerks who are thus employed in the evening are said to be "upon the balance." In large establishments it is usual to divide the whole body of clerks into classes, who take it in turn to be "upon the balance." By this arrangement, all those who are not "upon the balance" can leave the bank as soon as their own work is done. The smaller the number of clerks on the balance, the better. Thus, in a bank of forty-two clerks, six would be sufficient to be on the balance. If a larger number-say twelve-were retained, the juniors would do nothing, or else they would be employed on the inferior books, from which they would learn nothing. But when only six are retained they must all work, and, what is better still, they must all think. They will all acquire a thorough knowledge of the whole system of book-keeping, and be able to ascertain in what way errors in one book may counteract errors in another book, and how the errors discovered will bear upon "the difference." In large establishments, almost the only way in which a junior clerk can learn the whole system of book-keeping is from being "upon the balance." But this is an effectual one. It also gives him an opportunity of showing his talents. Some clerks are far more quick in discovering the difference than others are; and this quickness is generally a fair criterion of the general talent of the party. The clerk who "skulks" the balance avoids the best means of improvement, and the best opportunity of showing his talents. But such persons have usually no talents to show. A clerk who acts in this way betrays a consciousness of being a fool.
We have here spoken of that kind of training which is adapted to the making of clever clerks. But as in the joint-stock banks a clerk may become a manager, it is desirable that those clerks who are deemed the most clever should be put under a course of training that will, with experience, qualify them for that office. It is, in some respects, more difficult to do this in a large establishment than in a small one. In a bank that has forty clerks, one clerk sees only a fortieth part of its operations. In a bank where there are only ten clerks one clerk sees a tenth part, and may easily acquire a tolerable knowledge of the whole. A bank that has many branches has a great facility for training clerks to become managers. When a branch manager is absent from illness, or any other cause, one of the senior clerks of that or some other branch will take his place, and thus gradually become accustomed to the duties of the office.
The clerks thus selected for this kind of training should be young men who are quick and efficient in the discharge of all their official duties, and, moreover, possess a good temper, gentlemanly appearance and manners, a degree of literary information, with a desire of improving their knowledge and their talents. They should not be young men who have entered the bank until they can get something better, but those who look to banking as their profession, and are ambitious of attaining to the highest posts in the establishment. But beyond the qualities we have enumerated, it is necessary, above all things, that they should have habits of business.
"Habits of business' is a phrase which includes a variety of qualities-industry, arrangement, calculation, prudence, punctuality, and perseverance. And these virtues are exercised, not from the impulse of particular motives, but from habit. If you hear a man boast of being industrious, you may safely infer that he does not possess the habit of industry; for what a man does from habit, he does mechanically, without thinking of the merit of his actions, though they may be highly meritorious. Habits of business are essential to a merchant. But though essential to a merchant, they are not peculiar to him. They are as necessary to a professional man as to a merchant-as necessary to ladies as to gentlemen-as necessary for the government of a family as for the government of a commercial establishment. The greater the intellectual talents of the individual, the more necessary are habits of business to keep him steady in his course. The more canvas he spreads, the more ballast he requires. If we examine the history of those illustrious characters who have risen to eminence as the masters, the legislators, or the instructors of mankind, we shall find they have been as much distinguished by their habits of business as by the superiority of their intellect; while, on the other hand, we could easily point out, in every science and in every path of life, some young men who, though of towering genius, have become lost to themselves, and have disappointed the hopes of all their friends, through a want of habits of business.
They have burst upon the world with more than noontide splendour, they have attracted universal notice, they have excited big expectations, and suddenly they have darted into an oblique course, and passed into oblivion." l If a clerk be intended to be trained for a manager, it may be questioned whether he will be improved by remaining a long time as a clerk. The two offices are very distinct, and they call into operation distinct qualities and operations of mind. A very old banker's clerk (unless he has-been a chief clerk) is, generally, from the very length of his service, disqualified for being a manager. Seven to ten years' experience as a clerk is quite long enough, and after that period the sooner he becomes a manager the better, provided he has the necessary qualifications. Even during that time he should have been occasionally employed in those operations that require the exercise of his faculties as a man of business. It has often been said, that good servants make bad masters. If this be true, it is probably the result of an intellectual more than a moral deficiency. A lengthened service causes the mental faculties to move in a routine from which they cannot be suddenly aroused into an attitude of independence, so as to be able to trace causes and effects, to balance opposing considerations, and to engage in those reasoning processes which are required by the exercise of authority. Hence it is, that before a clerk is appointed a manager, he should undergo some kind of training. The best training for being a manager is that of being chief clerk, or of holding an equivalent post next to the manager. It will necessarily follow that the holder of such a post will have occasionally to take the place of the manager, and the manner in which he may then act will be a fair criterion by which to judge of his qualifications for that or a similar situation.