There is a sense of pride associated with a Banking career in our country. Albeit it is not as strong as what it used to be in the twentieth century. The volatile market conditions coupled with intense competition and excessive pressure has changed the dynamics of a career in Banking. In the last decade Banking has lost a lot of talent to other industries like Financial BPOs, Insurance companies, Broking Firms and even to NBFCs.
Sales or Frontline jobs
Most of the hiring currently amongst all Banks is for their sales and frontline roles. Even during the 2008 financial crisis, good frontline staff were getting good offers. Getting a sales role in Banking is probably relatively easier than any other role. Banking in Tier 1 and Tier 2 cities is a buyers’ market today and thus most frontline customer service staff is expected to sell, cross-sell, upsell. The upside to these jobs is that you will be on a slightly higher salary and you will grow faster in your career than others. This is true only if you are someone who can build good customer relationships or if you have a general knack for selling. If you are someone who likes stability, unambiguity and a stress-free job, this role is not for you.
If you are a frontline sales staff on the liabilities side, the next career move for you is to become a Branch Manager, Regional Head, Zonal Head etc. While on the asset side, your next level will be an Area Sales Manager, Regional Sales Manager etc.
Sales staff can also move into Product or Credit roles over a period of time. However the reason to move into these roles should be because you have gained a very good understanding of the market to spot opportunities and have decent analytical skills and not because you are not able to perform in a sales role or are not willing to take the sales pressure.
The mistake that some of the frontline staff make is that they do not learn about operations or compliance or credit during their stints. To further grow even in the Sales and distribution functions of a Bank, at a mid to senior level, overall banking knowledge is most important.
Most Banks are outsourcing their back-office jobs to improve efficiencies. So at the junior level processing jobs will mostly be available with the Service providers of Banks rather than directly on the rolls of a Bank. However these can be a good way to put your foot in the door and get into a Bank. The upside to these jobs is that they are more stable and the outcomes of your efforts are much more predictable than a sales or frontline job. This means slightly lesser stress. Though targets are steep and this would mean long working hours. If you do well, your movement to becoming a Team leader and then Manager can be fairly quick. Quality control is a key element of this job and so you should be someone who has an eye for detail and is comfortable with routine tasks.
Credit & Risk
The Credit function of a Bank is responsible for approving and sanctioning of loans. The job requires some amount of analytical skills and a good understanding of businesses, balance sheets and cash flows. However growth in Credit will be relatively slower as compared to other functions because bigger jobs mean higher sanctioning authority and thus it would be given only after substantial number of years in Banking. In the recent past, RBI has laid a lot of emphasis on risk based supervision. So there are good options available in Credit Risk and Market Risk functions of the Bank too.
Compliance & Audit
These are functions which are knowledge and regulation intensive. Similar to Credit, growth in these units require a little bit of grey hair. Some of these employees may also move into Operations Risk jobs for the Bank.
A career in this function somehow is associated with a lot of glamour similar to the kind of pull a Yash Chopra or Karan Johar movie gets. However a dealer’s job is not that fancy. It is a 24 X 7 job as you have to keep yourself updated all the time. There is tremendous pressure as one mistake and you could be fired. It requires a lot of discipline and restraint. Treasury teams are fairly flat and so growth here usually means a higher limit to deal, not necessarily a higher role.
While being successful in each of these roles is very critical to your career growth, honing leadership skills is as critical. Progress beyond a point in any industry is based on your behavioral competencies and not just functional skills.
This article was published in Ascent (The Times of India) on 10 Dec 2013.