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People to bank on

Probationary officers handle various sections to understand how a bank works, says Syed Amir Ali Hashmi.

education Updated: Jun 20, 2012 17:40 IST
Syed Amir Ali Hashmi

RC Sharma joined the Oriental Bank of Commerce as a probationary officer (PO) in 1991. Though, initially, this science graduate had some problems understanding the balance sheets, he got over his limitations and now, 14 years later, is a senior manager with the bank.

Banks have had a total makeover in the past two decades. Today, it is not just about withdrawals and deposits, or about getting demand drafts made. Fierce competition among private and public sector banks to get the largest slice of the market pie has created a need for more POs in public sector banks. These are people who must understand and deal with various new offerings such as online banking, securities and investments, asset management and corporate banking.

JP Dua also chose a bank job, though he had plenty of offers with a Master’s in economics and a law degree under his belt. The former PO, now chairman and managing director of Allahabad Bank, says that an aspiring professional should join a bank with an open mind. “He/she should be ready for transfers and also be able to handle all kinds of clients.”

Talking of opportunities, Dua says, “When we joined, there were very few verticals.

One had to either go to the loan section or foreign exchange. But now you can choose from insurance, wealth management, merchant banking, etc. Today it’s all about innovative banking.” Therefore, a PO should be able to think out of the box, too.

Recalling his college days, Sharma says he was always interested in financial accounting and used to keenly follow the financial performance of a number of companies. “I believe that helped me make up my mind about being a PO. Also, in 1991, there were not many good opportunities in the science stream, so I went for a bank job,” he adds.

After joining a bank, officers do a one-year probation, during which they are assigned work in various departments, including forex operations, general banking, loans and merchant banking. Dealing with cash, selection of cheques, completing routine bank work such as bill collection, cheque clearances and loan processing etc. makes a PO familiar with every aspect of banking. After the probation period, their designations are decided on the basis of their performance.

Every bank has a staff training college where POs get 15 days of training before being posted to a branch.

The climb is fairly easy after probation. From PO to Scale II manager takes four years, but one can take a short-cut by writing the Certified Associates of Indian Institute of Bankers (CAIIB) examination. The CAIIB qualification also helps in further promotions.

“There is no limit to how high one can rise — you can be executive director or the chairman of a bank,” says TM Bhasin, ED, United Bank of India. “It depends on your aptitude and learning from experience while working.”

What's it about?
A probationary officer (PO) can be asked to handle numerous tasks, from cheque clearance to billing or working in the forex section during the probation period. Once confirmed, the employee will do routine work related to banking. POs also take on managerial responsibilities later

Clock Work
9 am: Reach office
9.30 am: Finish pending work
10 am: Meet clients
1.30 pm: Lunch
2 pm: Back to work
6 pm: Leave for home

The Payoff
Pay scales in public sector banks: Probationary officer Rs 10,000 to Rs 18,240; Scale II (manager) Rs 13,820 to Rs 19,920; Scale III (sr manager) Rs 18,240 to Rs 20,280; Scale IV (chief manager) Rs 20,480 to Rs 24,140; Scale V (AGM) Rs 24,140 to Rs 26,620; Scale VI (DGM) Rs 26,620 to Rs 29,340; Scale VII (GM) Rs 29,340 to Rs 32,600

Skills
.
Be receptive and alert about bank functions and also to the training
. Be co-operative and friendly towards the staff and the customer
. Develop humane and intelligent leadership qualities, communication skills and
authority

How do i get there?
Graduates from any stream can apply to a public sector bank as a PO. Every bank recruits its staff through a written test, group discussion and interview

Institutes & urls
.
Graduation from any recognised university. No special course available

Pros & Cons
.
You get to deal in numbers
. You get respect as a banker
. Promise of job security
. Some clients may be very difficult to handle
. You have to be soft-spoken all the time


Pay scale, job security make it attractive

The director of a bank talks about the job profile of a probationary officer

What makes a PO’s work challenging?
Probationary officers are generalists. Unlike specialists, they are posted in different departments of a branch to gather knowledge on all aspects of banking and also to remove the monotony inherent in the job of a specialist. An important post, that of a branch manager, is generally occupied by a PO.

Keeping the competition from the private sector in mind, what is being done to make this career much sought-after?
First, there is as such no competition from the private sector as far as human resources are concerned, because after the recent wage settlement, a PO is expected to get a handsome salary.

The icing on the cake, of course, is the job security and almost two months of paid holiday a year that POs in nationalised banks get.

Besides this, we have also made the promotion process very attractive. A PO at present can become a senior manager in just six years. This used to, earlier take at least 12 years. A lot of retirements are also taking place in the next two to three years, offering more job openings for probationary officers.

What is the mantra for reaching the top?
Hard work, proper planning and its execution, excellent communication skills, honesty and integrity, dedication to the organisation, ability to work under pressure and developing an interest in the work assigned to him/her will help a PO get ahead.

Many POs who had joined our bank today occupy top positions in some nationalised banks.

Kamal Bhushan, director, Oriental Bank of Commerce Interviewed by Syed Amir Ali Hashmi