All financial firms in the banking industry, as well as the various banking regulatory agencies and associations, offer many paths for the person interested in a banking career. Most senior-level positions will require at a minimum a four-year college degree in finance, business, accounting, or a related field, but many entry-level positions can be obtained with a high school diploma or a GED. In addition, many larger banks and some of the regulatory agencies offer intern or trainee positions and many also offer continuing education for the ambitious employee, including college scholarships and student loans.
Typical careers within a financial institution may include bank teller, bank manager, credit, mortgage, or loan officer, and bank officer. Within each of those careers, depending on the size of the bank and the size of the department, are many levels of authority and responsibility and, therefore, many opportunities for advancement. Positions available within the regulatory industry include bank examiner, compliance examiner or officer, financial and/or compliance analyst, and economist. Again, within each of these areas are many levels of authority, duties, and support. It is not uncommon for talented and experienced banking professionals to be recruited for more senior-level positions both within their own banks and by other competing banks. While it may seem that as the financial world becomes more dependent on computers and automation, and therefore may require fewer employees, the fact is that banks are growing all over the world and are competing against each other constantly for business and customers. This means that banks will continue to search for applicants for the many careers available in the field. Skilled banking professionals, in any of the types of banks within the industry, should always be able to secure lucrative positions with a financial firm because of both population and economic growth.
Bank teller positions can be found in all banking and credit union retail locations, both brick-and-mortar venues as well as online and virtual stores. Bank teller is usually the entry-level position for someone starting within the industry. The bank teller at a retail bank or credit union will be the person that a customer physically visits when cashing or depositing a check, purchasing a cashier’s check or money order, or any other cash service handled at a retail bank or drive-up bank location. Bank tellers can also be found at banking call centers where customers may telephone a bank for any number of retail banking services. Call centers routinely handle requests for bank account services that may include funds transactions and reconciliations as well as retail services regarding bank products. Bank and credit union call centers may offer products such as loans and various types of insurance policies as well as retirement and savings account products (money market accounts, certificates of deposit, individual retirement accounts, health savings accounts, treasury bonds) along with details regarding contributions, disbursements and reconciliations for these accounts.
Starting salaries for bank tellers can range from $12,000 to $30,000 annually, depending on the geographic location of the position, the experience of the applicant, and the amount of responsibility for the position. To qualify for bank teller position at a credit union or bank, the applicant must have a high school diploma or a GED and also must be bondable. If the applicant has been convicted of any crime involving dishonesty or breach of trust, he or she cannot be bonded. Those considering banking jobs should be aware that federal banking regulations bar all banks from offering a position to anyone with this type of criminal record.
The bank teller applicant will generally need at least six months of customer service experience and six months of cash handling experience. It is imperative that a bank teller be dependable, punctual, friendly, honest, trustworthy, and efficient, as well as having a positive attitude. An affinity for numbers and a good grasp of mathematics will help a bank teller be successful, but being able to personally help customers with a friendly demeanor will be the key to real success as a bank teller. The teller exchanges cash, personal checks, and products with the customer and will need to be able to communicate successfully and tactfully with people of all socio-economic positions while carefully accomplishing the transaction for the customer. Most bank tellers will be given sales goals and must be able to sell enough products to meet those goals while also handling the customers’ requests and correctly reconciling all transactions. An efficient, friendly, trustworthy teller who instills confidence in his/her customers by offering pleasant and correct service will be able to both accurately service the customers’ banking needs and sell products easily. The bank teller who is shown to be competent in all duties will likely be promoted into a more specialized customer service position, such as loan officer or bank manager.
Most banks and credit unions have basic requirements for these positions. Most banks and credit unions will require the new bank teller to attend one to three weeks of bank teller “school” where the new employee will learn the duties, responsibilities, processes, and procedures of the position as well as the expectations of the new teller. Once placed into the banking careers position, the new teller will be assigned to a mentor who will teach and assist the new employee until he or she is competent in all responsibilities and transactions. The mentor will help the new teller become comfortable not only with the bank’s processes but also guide the teller in learning to understand what is expected of a teller at their bank, and how to find additional assistance for more difficult transactions. A bank teller who is successful at mentoring many new tellers is also likely to be promoted into a position of management or supervision in one of the bank’s many departments. Bank teller supervision and management positions in retail credit unions, banks and call centers can payanywhere from $30,000 to $60,000, again depending on experience, skills, qualifications, and the bank’s location.
A loan officer is the person at a bank, a credit union, a savings and loan, or other financial institution, who helps people and companies borrow money. Loan officers usually specialize in one of three types of loans: commercial (working with small or large business needs), consumer (for individuals needing money for vehicles or lines of credit or other relatively small loans), and mortgage (home purchases and home equity loans).
The requirements for loan officer jobs range from a high school diploma (required by smaller institutions) to a college degree (in business, finance or a related field) for positions in many larger commercial financial companies. It is helpful to have sales or banking experience for the applicant for this position, and the applicant must be able to pass a thorough background check for employment. Many financial institutions also require drug testing for all banking careers, both when being initially employed but also at random times later. A loan officer needs to be a confident person with excellent communication skills and must be detailed oriented. Many loan officers are paid on commission; therefore, a good work ethic and lots of motivation will be the key to success in this field.
Most loan officers are paid on commissions earned from the loans they place, but some institutions will pay a base salary plus commissions or some sort of bonus arrangement related to the number and dollar amount of sold loans. For this reason, average salaries for banking careers related to loan officers can range greatly, depending on the success of the loan officer, and the size of the loans. Loan officers at smaller local banks can make between $30,000 and $60,000, but successful loan officers in larger banks or financial companies can earn upwards of $80,000 or more in good economic times. Commissioned loan officers, by definition, can earn much more than salaried loan officers, but the commissioned person will probably work longer days and will spend more time outside of his or her office, contacting customers and finalizing sales. Periods of economic stability and low interest rates produce a buyer’s market in real estate, which will, in turn, generate more loans, thereby producing higher salaries.
Loans are arranged for many purposes. Individual customers of a bank will need loans for homes; vehicles such as autos, motorcycles, or boats; home remodeling or repairs; and debt restructuring, for example, to pay off higher interest credit card balances. Small business owners need loans for costs to start the business, such as rent deposits, hiring costs, advertising, to purchase equipment and inventory, or to maintain cash flow for salaries, stock, and other costs. Larger companies borrow money for the same reasons as small businesses but on a larger scale. Some commercial loans are arranged by the loan officer by using a number of banks and bundling a package of loans together for the customer.
A loan officer can be thought of as both a sales person and a facilitator. The loan officer must both search for clients as well as help the client qualify for the loan needed once the customer has requested the loan. To begin the process of a loan, the loan officer will gather basic information about the client and the type and amount of loan needed. Next the loan officer will analyze the client’s needs, collateral, and credit worthiness against the amount of money and type of loan that the bank determines will be a valid risk for the bank to extend to the customer. Today, much of this “analysis” is done with sophisticated computer underwriting programs that have already been built by the bank to facilitate the process for both the bank and the customer. The Internet has also drastically changed the loan officer environment as a banking career. A person searching for a loan can apply on any number of online banking sites through one portal, which will then match the prospect with a lender with the best interest rates for the product that the consumer needs. However, the loan officer is responsible for overseeing the details of the transaction and making sure that the bank’s interests are maintained while making sure that the customer is treated fairly and legally. Many loan officers are instrumental in assisting clients who may have difficulty qualifying for loans by advising them on how to clear their credit, or by adjusting the size or amount of the loan.
Loan officers are sometimes promoted into two other types of positions in this banking field after a period of time as one of the three specializations above. A loan underwriter specializes in determining the client borrower’s creditworthiness along with the risk involved in making the loan, typically large commercial loans. Loan collection officers work with delinquent borrowers to either restructure the loans or, in the case of default of the loan, the process of seizing the collateral property and selling it to try to pay off the debt to the bank.
While banking careers in very senior upper-level officer positions are scarce and difficult to obtain, banks employ many mid-level managers to oversee all the banks’ different operations, departments and branches. Most bank and branch managers are bank officers. To be an officer of a bank, most firms require the manager to have a four-year college degree in accounting, finance, business administration, or economics or to have completed a bank manager training program where the trainee will work variously in many different bank departments in order to learn and experience the different aspects of the employing bank.
A bank manager manages all activities of a bank or a particular department of the bank. A manager of a department of a large bank may have more specialized duties overseeing the business, service, or profitability of the department. A bank manager typically starts off as a trainee, then progresses to assistant manager, and then, if successful, may be promoted to manager. The bank manager is responsible for hiring, training, supervising and if necessary, firing the staff that he or she supervises. In smaller banks, the bank manager may also be the person who solicits business from the community, either by advertising their services or by visiting with local companies and their owners. He or she may also be the loan officer as well as the credit analyst.
Branch managers supervise all business and staff in a retail location of a national or international parent bank. A branch manager in a small local bank, while being responsible for all of the bank’s business, may also handle many additional duties from time to time, such as loan or trust officer, teller, or even some administrative duties. A branch manager is both an administrator and a sales person for the bank. He or she has the full responsibility for the branch’s activities and functions and must make certain that the branch and the staff comply with all banking regulations as well as the bank’s requirements and procedures. It’s the branch manager’s job to make sure that the branch or department is staffed appropriately and that the staff employees have the tools with which to carry out their duties and service the customers. The branch manager must also work to make the bank or department a pleasant place for both the staff to work and the clients to visit. The branch manager must make certain that the bank services the customers accurately, responsibly and pleasantly, and that the branch’s financial goals are met.
In larger banks, the branch or bank manager may simply be the department’s head, directing the division’s many assistants, trainees or other staff and their activities with little customer contact. In all cases, the manager is ultimately responsible for maintaining and increasing the amount of deposits and loans and working to ensure the profitability of the branch or the department and the parent bank.
Other types of bank managers can be operations managers, financial managers, and investment managers. Operations managers supervise other staff in banking careers in departments who handle the physical aspects of banking business, such as mail rooms, printing departments, computers, and networking staff. Today, with virtual banking and online and telephone banking, many banks operate call centers with telephone tellers and loan officers, supervised by operations managers and bank officers. Financial managers analyze various types of financial statements, working in banks as well as in the investment and financial firms. Investment managers in banks oversee the investment portfolios of either the bank or the bank’s investors.
Bank manager salaries vary greatly, depending on the size of the bank or branch, and the type of bank. Entry-level bank managers’ median salaries vary from $35,000 to $50,000 but a senior bank manager or branch officer can earn from $50,000 to $100,000. Most banks offer excellent benefit packages for managers, and it is not uncommon for a well performing bank manager to receive significant bonuses depending on the business growth and profitability of both the bank and the branch or department. Many banks also pay for continuing education and advanced degrees for managers and officers, both to encourage skill development and to assist those managers who wish to gain financial knowledge in their career development.
A credit analyst studies the financial details of a person, a group of persons, or a company, in order to evaluate the bank loan applicant’s credit worthiness, or ability to repay the loan. Credit analysts can be employed by banks, credit unions, credit card companies, financial investment firms, or credit rating agencies. Generally, most large financial institutions require a bachelor’s degree in finance, business, accounting, or a related field, but many banks will offer on-the-job training in credit analysis for talented employees without such degrees for banking careers such as this. Typical pay for salaried credit analysts ranges from $35,000 to $60,000, depending on the geographic area of the employer bank and also the experience of the analyst. A master’s degree in business administration or a CFA (Chartered Financial Analyst) designation can be requirements for some upper-level positions. While credit analysts are not normally required to obtain MBAs or CFA designations, many are able to gain higher salaries and be promoted to more senior analyst positions with these degrees, especially if they are employed by larger corporations with greater assets than smaller local or regional banks.
To be a successful credit analyst, excellent detail-related skills and diligence with numbers are crucial. The credit analyst gathers various financial data about the borrowing customers and will then evaluate the information. Next, the credit analyst writes recommendations regarding the risk assessment and credit worthiness of the applicant, company, or group of applicants. A credit analyst might analyze borrowing and payment data from many sources to assess the creditworthiness of a line of products, such as mortgages or credit cards, or the analyst might study the financial and cash flow history of one client or one company in order to underwrite a particular loan to a customer. Credit analysts who specialize in a particular industry might work in the financial sector or might work directly for a company in that specific industry, such as a utility or a manufacturing company. In these positions, the credit analyst should have experience and knowledge about the financial history, statistics and trends of the employing industry, and will work in analyzing the risk assessments and creditworthiness of the company’s clients or of the company’s money or banking needs.
Credit analysts are not salespeople. They are number crunchers and money analysts. Skills needed for a credit analyst position are problem-solving skills and diligence with numbers, along with a talent for reviewing and explaining the bigger picture of all the smaller numeric details. A good credit analyst also needs to stay knowledgeable about the trends and business structure of the market to be able to successfully gauge the current position of the borrower’s risk assessment. Obviously, since modern banking uses sophisticated quantitative software programs, credit analysis software knowledge is critical. The credit analyst must understand both the results of the reports as well as the underlying data management details in order to comprehend the evaluation. Good communication skills, both written and verbal, will help the credit analyst to successfully communicate his or her results from the analysis.
The credit analyst has an enormous responsibility to accurately assess the risk of the products or the applicants’ creditworthiness. Incorrect analysis of data or errors in accounting can result in great losses for the credit analyst’s bank. In order to be successful, great attention to detail and solid understanding of the areas of accounting, calculus, debt service and ratio analysis are important for professionals interested in these positions. Software programs are constantly being developed to analyze data and produce statements, but the credit analyst will always be needed to review the information and the data and to effectively communicate the risk assessment. The credit analyst must have the education and experience to be able to use these complex tools and must also have the skills to explain and justify the financial statements produced by the research for the final risk assessment determination.
A mortgage banker (also known as a mortgage broker) works for the client borrower as a type of “middle man” between the lender (owner of the loan) and the purchaser (the borrower). A mortgage broker does not work for a bank, but rather works with any number of banks whose loans the broker will sell for the bank. This type of position is unique in the banking industry, because the mortgage banker or broker usually works for a loan company or agency, and is paid on the basis of the loans placed.
Mortgage brokers in all states must be licensed. Each state will have their own regulations and licenses, but typically, the mortgage broker is liable for any type of wrongdoing or fraud that he or she may have been involved in, for the life of the loan. Mortgage brokers may refer to themselves as “loan officers” but they are not actually officers of any bank.
A mortgage broker is usually paid by commissions on the loans that he or she sells. Typically, a mortgage broker is able to make more total earnings than a bank’s loan officer, but the commissions will depend on the amount and number of the loans that are sold by the broker. A mortgage broker can earn anywhere between $40,000 to $120,000, on average, depending on the geographic location of the position and the number of loans that the broker is able to sell.
A mortgage broker advertises or markets for customers to purchase mortgage loans from the broker. The mortgage broker will then meet with the prospective client to gather the information about the needed funds and the client’s information and financial history. This is usually referred to as the fact-finding interview, and the client will complete a preliminary application for the loan. The mortgage broker will obtain a credit report on the applicant and review the borrower’s situation in order to correctly find a loan product that is affordable and that will meet the needs of the client. This is called the pre- approval period, where the lender agrees to conditionally “approve” the client for a loan.
The next step is sometimes performed by an assistant to the mortgage broker. This step in the process is obtaining all the documents from the client that will qualify the borrower for the loan, including paystubs, bank statements, credit card and bank account numbers, proof of identification, details and address for the collateral for the loan, and any other items that are needed to prove sufficient cash flow to be able to pay the monthly loan installments. If an applicant is self-employed, tax returns, Schedule K-1 statements, and a year’s worth of bank account statements may need to be obtained to show the requisite salary. The actual application for the loan will be completed at this time, by either the broker or the broker’s assistant. The mortgage broker should explain the entire process and all the legal responsibilities of both the lender and the borrower to the borrower.
The broker will complete the lender’s application to the lender, and will submit all applications and documents to the lender for approval.
Almost 2/3 of all mortgage loans originating in the U.S. are completed through a mortgage broker channel, with slightly less than 1/3 of the loans done through a bank or credit union’s retail market, or direct to the customer.
Online brokerages today have simplified a great deal of the loan process by using software that condenses many of the preliminary steps made by the borrower and then narrows the vast field of available loans down to only those loans that the borrower is qualified to purchase. The online software “brokerages” also give the prospective borrower an opportunity to “shop around” and compare the different interest rates in the marketplace.
Mortgage brokers buy packages of loans, usually at a discount, from a variety of sources, such as banks and other lenders, and sell each loan to customers for a commission. While a mortgage broker will work with loan clients in the same way that a mortgage loan officer finds loans for customers, the difference is that the mortgage broker usually works for a mortgage brokerage rather than a bank, and will find loans from many different banks or sources. A loan officer will be limited only to selling the loans offered by his or her bank, and must adhere to the credit requirements of the bank’s regulators. Often, a mortgage broker is able to loan money to high-risk borrowers when banks are not able to offer these customers a loan, because the loans’ cumulative “risk” is spread out among the broker’s entire loan package.
Prior to the 1970’s, most loans were made by banks that had reserved the access to wholesale money markets for mortgages. With today’s regulatory atmosphere, all mortgage brokers can access loans from both of the secondary wholesale market lenders in the U.S., the Federal National Mortgage Association (Fannie Mae), and the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation (Freddie Mac). This has caused a shift in the number of loans made by mortgage brokers from very few in the 1960’s to over 65% of loans sold in the U.S. today.
Banking institutions employ any number of office and support staff for all office departments, similar to any large or small firm. Office departments in a banking firm can include human resources, building and janitorial operations, payroll, administrative and secretarial support, data entry on up to computer technology, programming and application development, support and maintenance. Each department, depending on the size of the firm, will have multiple levels of authority and responsibility for all banking careers of this sort. Bank jobs within these departments can range from entry-level and intern, to support and middle management, on up to the department’s director or chief officer.
Many positions, both senior and otherwise, in a banking firm are supported by any number of staff that can be considered secretarial, administrative, clerical, or assistant. These careers can be entry-level positions, pay minimum wage, or might be senior positions, such as a legal clerk or research fellow assistant, with pay ranging from $50,000 to over $100,000, depending on education and experience.
Human Resources, Personnel and Payroll departments in banking firms operate very much the same as these departments do in many other types of firms. These employees need to be familiar with both state and federal employment laws as well as banking regulations regarding staff performance. Certain regulatory bodies have oversight regarding pay for some bank employees. Staff in these departments must be knowledgeable of these limits and make certain that the bank or entity follows all the regulatory guidelines surrounding pay. Senior Human Resource staff at a national bank can earn well over $100,000, particularly if they hold a Society for Human Resource Management certification, either SPHR or HRM. Many Directors of Human Resources at large banking institutions are also licensed attorneys, since much of what this department must oversee is guided by legal decisions. Larger firms will also employ assistant Human Resources, Personnel and Payroll staff, starting with unpaid interns or apprentices to entry-level staff and assistants. Ranges of pay vary greatly, depending on the size of the bank, the location of the Human Resources department and the number of banking careers staff needed.
Computer and software technology staff are crucial to the operation and success of a large national or commercial bank or credit union. Automated teller machines, online banking and online support have greatly increased the customer access for many banks. However, along with this online access, are increased security breaches, and many more fraudulent events that must be tracked, researched, and contained.
Many technology positions are held by experienced software engineers who have learned the trade building the large banking platforms used by banks to support customer service and also banking records. Technology platforms in banking include those used in the lending industry, the legal divisions, and very importantly, in compliance monitoring. Compliance monitoring software searches words and lexicons used in communications and records to prevent infractions of the law. Computer and software experts in these fields can be highly paid if they are the ones developing and troubleshooting software programs, often earning well in excess of $150,000. However, because of the complexity of the codes used by the banks’ software programs, and the sheer size of the data, all banks employ many computer technology people in a myriad of positions, ranging from data entry to programmer analysts who help to monitor small errors in software that can appear daily. Salaries for these banking careers can range from $8 per hour for data entry to $40,000 to $80,000 for programmer analysts.
Any banking firm that houses staff or equipment in a building must employ janitorial, maintenance, and facilities staff, ranging from cleaning staff, to building maintenance staff, to air conditioning and plumbing staff, to staff that pays the utilities bills. These positions are not unique to the banking industry and may employ people with experience with facilities from all industries. However, it should be noted that banking facilities staff receive salaries and benefits on par with other industries, and do not typically receive any increased benefits or perks for working in the banking industry.
Small banking firms generally offer lower salaries for similar positions than larger, national firms, but typically enjoy stability and possibly even less stress than large banking institutions. This can be seen as due to the lower amount of transactions and customers generally seen in a small or local firm.