Career as A Bank Probationary Officer
Vijay Prakash Srivastava
Few months ago lockdown was announced in the country to arrest the spread of Corona virus. Most of the economic activities came to a halt-shops remain closed, factories were shut and educational institutes had also to face closure. However banks and their branches were kept open. Even when most of the operations were closed, the government wanted banks to carry on with most of the services offered by them. Many people from lower income group collected the government financial aid credited to their accounts, by visiting these bank branches. Through this example it is easy to understand how important banks are for a country and its economy.
After implementation of Jan Dhan Yojana, in the year 2014, most people in the country, now have access to banks and banking services. Also in the past few decades, banks have made significant contribution in employment generation. On one side a large number of young people have joined banks as employees, on the other jobs have been created by the units (small, medium or big) financed by banks.
Alarge segment of our youth, aspire for a banking career. A job in a public sector bank (PSB) offers security, growth opportunity and serve people. Probationary officer is a coveted entry level position in these banks and the career path it offers is full of opportunities, challenges and growth. The career path also provides richness of experience. Probationary means new to a job or activity, so newly recruited junior officers in PSBs are called probationary officers. In Punjab National Bank, such new officers are known as Management Trainees.
The entry bar for a generalist probationary officer in banks has been kept simple. With a graduate qualification in any subject, one may apply for the position. Since bulk recruitments are made by combining the vacancies in all PSBs, the chances of selection are better, notwithstanding the competition due to large number of applicants. To understand this, compare applying for 5 positions with for 1000 positions.
Selection process and test pattern for recruitment of probationary officers have already been explained in earlier articles published in Employment News. This article is an attempt to provide a glimpse of the career path of a bank probationary officer after joining a bank.
Scope: A number of mergers have taken place in government and private banks space. After the latest such instance, now there are 12 PSBs in the country with nearly 87000 branches. These branches are spread all over the country and cater to every population segment (urban, semi-urban and rural). Few banks have branches abroad as well. When you're selected as a probationary officer the entire country becomes your work territory. You may be posted in any part of the country, though in the beginning, candidates subject to requirements of the bank concerned may be offered postings in the area of their choice.
After your joining as probationary officer, you remain on probation for a defined period. Earlier the probation period used to be two years which has now been reduced to one year by most of the banks. After successful completion of the probation the employee gets confirmed in service. Now many facilities, which earlier were extended to confirmed officers only, are available since beginning of employment i.e. probation. A probationary officer belongs to Junior Management Grade Scale I, many times known as Assistant Manager. After Junior Management, the next levels are Middle Management, Senior Management and Top Executive Grade. There are seven levels of officers in PSBs- Assistant Manager, Senior Manager, Chief Manager, Assistant General Manager, Deputy General Manager and General Manager. Few banks have created the positions of Chief General Manager also which comes after General Manager. Executive Director and Chairman & Managing Director are Board level positions, appointments to which are made by government.
Skill building through Training: Every progressive organization gives lot of importance to train its employees. The training system is very strong in PSBs, which caters to different levels of employees. All probationary officers are given induction training at their bank's training centre to apprise them of bank's culture, organizational set up, policies, service regulations as well as banking law and practice, along with overview of banking products and services. The training also covers management and soft skills and most importantly the operational system as we all know most of the banking happens on computers. This induction training can be in phases. Being posted at a bank branch, probationary officers receive on the job training and are rotated through all basic banking functions like deposits, loans, cash management etc. Branches are the main operating units of banks and it is considered necessary for officers to get exposed to all important functions in branch banking. Some part of the training may also happen at an administrative office of the bank. The training in administrative offices is brief and is intended to give knowledge of control mechanism and compliance regulations to be followed by banks. E learning is also available for them. Training policy and duration may differ from bank to bank.
From time to time officers are nominated to receive training in different areas conducted by bank itself or by other institutions.
Placements: In all likelihood when you join a bank as probationary officer, after induction training, you'll be posted in a branch. More than half of bank branches in the country are in rural and semi urban areas. Your work responsibilities will depend on the size of the branch you're put into. For example if you work in a small branch, you may be asked to look after the entire deposit portfolio of the branch, whereas in a big branch you'll be attending to only one segment current/ savings/fixed/other deposits. A bank officer may have to work as in-charge of one or more particular business segment. Within two-three years you may be considered for the role of manager of a small branch. As you progress to higher grades you'll be posted as section in-charge or work as manager of a bigger branch.
In comparison to branches, banks have lesser number of administrative offices. Those posted at administrative offices will work in a particular department of this office, initially as an assisting officer. When you grow a bit senior, you may hold the position of functional head in such an office. These functions include operations management, planning, business development/ marketing, HR, compliance, customer service, information technology etc.
As Deputy General Manager you may be made a Zonal Head for a large number (may be 60 to 100) branches. General Managers mostly work from corporate offices.
Areas of work: Many of us would have gone to a bank branch to open a savings account or to deposit a cheque. It should not make us conclude that banking is limited to these few tasks only. The truth is banking business has a lot of variety. If we take the deposit segment, banks have schemes for savings, current, recurring, term and foreign currency deposit schemes with multiple variants. The canvas of loan segment is also large consisting of loans to agriculture, micro, small and medium enterprises, corporates and infrastructure financing. Retail loans can be divided into housing loan, education loan, and holiday loan, loan for purchase of consumer durables, loan against property and other personal loans. Foreign exchange and treasury is also a business segment for them. Now banks are dealing in credit cards in a big way. Various third party products like insurance, mutual funds can also be purchased from banks.
Specialist probationary officers: What is discussed above relates to officers for general banking stream. Probationary specialist officers are also recruited in banks on a regular basis. They work in the area of their specialization. Applicants for some specialist positions, in addition to graduation, need to have additional required qualification. For some, being graduate in the specialised area meets the initial requirement. Most common specialist positions in banks are listed below:
Risk management officer
Now a days for few specific areas banks are going for super specialization.
In most of the banks, specialist officers, after completing prescribed years of service, may opt to move to general banking.
Those who possess specialised qualifications and have joined as general banking officers may be provided an opportunity to work in that specialised area.
Opportunities for growth/ promotion: In recent years banks have offered many relaxations in their promotion policies and now promotions happen at much shorter duration. A decade ago it used to take minimum seven years to reach middle management from junior management. Now it is possible to get such promotion in two years. Every bank has its own promotion policy according to which promotions are conducted on regular basis. In most banks promotions are an annual exercise. Officers after completing a certain number of years in a particular scale may apply for promotion to next scale. For promotion up to senior management level written test is conducted. Promotion is based on marks obtained in written test, interview /group discussion and appraisal of past performance. For promotion up to certain scales additional weightage is given for qualifications like MBA, CA, JAIIB/CAIIB among others. JAIIB and CAIIB are conducted by Indian Institute of Banking and Finance, country's premier institute for banking knowledge
Almost all l those who are now positioned as Chairmen and Executive Directors in different banks began their career as junior officers and few even as clerks. As banks expand, promotional opportunities will also increase.
Lateral entry opportunities: Sometimes banks decide to take experienced people in higher scales. This gives a chance to get a quick jump. At times this channel is also used to move to a preferred location or to a bigger bank or to some other financial organization.
Other opportunities: Many of the public sector banks have branches abroad. Joining such banks may provide you opportunity to get international exposure, as bright officers from within the bank are sent to work in and manage these foreign branches. One such tenure is of three to four years. Few banks have schemes for sending officers for training at foreign branches for a brief period which may be a year or less. Anumber of banks have subsidiaries to which officers from parent bank are deputed for a certain period. Organizations like Central Bureau of Investigation also require bank officers on deputation. Those interested in teaching and knowledge sharing, after prescribed years of work experience, may opt to become a trainer/faculty member at a training establishment of the bank. At senior levels one may work as principal of the training college.
Service conditions: Salary structure of officers in PSBs is based on negotiations between Indian Banks Association and officers' association bodies, to which central government has to provide its approval. Dearness allowance on basic salary is revised every three months. Increments are offered on annual basis. Benefits to officers include housing facility/subsidy, canteen subsidy leave travel concession, reimbursement for newspaper, petrol, cleaning material, higher interest rate on deposits etc. Such facilities and their limits vary from bank to bank. Branch managers may be given additional facilities.
Officers are liable to be transferred to any branch or office of the bank, however such transfers have to be in accordance with the policy. Usually transfers of officers happen every three to four years. For all administrative transfers, banks bear the travel, transportation and incidental costs as per rules.
Public sector banks offer adequate job security as long as you work with complete honesty, integrity and dedication.
(The author is a career counsellor based in Mumbai Email: firstname.lastname@example.org)
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