Careers in Banking

Anand P. Mishra*

The Banking Sector in India

The Banking sector in India has always been one of the most preferred avenues of employment. In the current decade, this has emerged as a resurgent sector in the Indian economy. As per the McKinsey report ‘India Banking 2010’, the banking sector index has grown at a compounded annual rate of over 51 per cent since the year 2001, as compared to a 27 per cent growth in the market index during the same period. It is projected that the sector has the potential to account for over 7.7 per cent of GDP with over Rs.7,500 billion in market cap, and to provide over 1.5 million jobs.

Today, banks have diversified their activities and are getting into new products and services that include opportunities in credit cards, consumer finance, wealth management, life and general insurance, investment banking, mutual funds, pension fund regulation, stock broking services, custodian services, private equity, etc. Further, most of the leading Indian banks are going global, setting up offices in foreign countries, by themselves or through their subsidiaries.


Employment Scenario in the Banking Sector

As reported in the Economic Times, the country’s leading public sector bank, State Bank of India has plans to recruit 25,000 employees in the year 2009. Besides, its life insurance venture, SBI Life, has plans to hire 13,000 agents and 200 sales managers. Also, Punjab National Bank, the country's second largest public sector lender, and Union Bank of India have plans of hiring 5,000 people each. The financial year 2008-09 has already shown the banking sector to be among the largest job providers in the country with over 50,000 vacancies being notified and filled up in the public sector banks alone.


Major Recruiters of Banking Industry

Public Sector Banks are the major recruiters of candidates aspiring for bank jobs. These banks are:

1. The State Bank of India Group (Total:8 Banks) namely SBI (State Bank of India), State Bank of Indore, SBBJ (..Bikaner & Jaipur), SBH (..Hyderabad), SBM (..Mysore), SBP (..Patiala), SBS (..Saurashtra), and SBT (..Travancore).

2. Nationalised Banks (Total: 19 Banks) namely Allahabad Bank, Andhra Bank, Bank of Baroda, Bank of India, Bank of Maharashtra, Canara Bank, Central Bank of India, Corporation Bank, Dena Bank, Indian Bank, Indian Overseas Bank, Oriental Bank of Commerce, Punjab & Sind Bank, Punjab National Bank, Syndicate Bank, UCO Bank, United Bank of India, Union Bank of India and Vijaya Bank.

3. Other Public Sector Bank i.e. IDBI Bank Limited.

4. Private Sector Banks (Total: 27 Banks). The major recruiters in the private sector include the ICICI Bank, HDFC Bank, Axis Bank, Federal Bank, Centurion Bank of Punjab, Indusind Bank, Kotak Mahindra Bank, Yes Bank, ING Vysya Bank, Bank of Rajasthan, Karur Vysya Bank, Karnataka Bank, Jammu & Kashmir Bank, South Indian Bank, Bharat Overseas Bank, etc. These banks conduct their own exams, but normally follow patterns similar to those of the exams of the public sector banks.

5. Co-operative Banks: All major National and State Co-operative Banks and Scheduled Urban Co-operative Banks conduct their own exams to recruit staff. Their recruitment exams, too, are generally similar to the exams of the public sector banks.


Career as a Bank Probationary Officer (PO)

A Probationary Officer’s post is the point of entry to the coveted managerial positions in the banking industry. A P O starts as a trainee officer in the Junior Management Grade Scale (JMGS) of the bank and can rise to the highest levels, becoming a General Manager, an Executive Director or even the Chairman of the Bank.

Needless to say, a Bank P O’s position is regarded with tremendous respect in society as it offers a life long opportunity to grow, prosper and serve society in a senior and responsible position in the Banking industry. Therefore, every Bank P.O. exam attracts lakhs of talented graduates, post-graduates and professionals, who compete for the few hundred or thousand of vacancies notified by various banks.


Career as a Bank Clerk

A young person joining a bank as a clerk-cum-cashier has the opportunity to start as early as at the age of 18 years after passing the 12th standard exams. A bank clerk enjoys job security, a challenging work environment and the opportunity to strengthen customer relation skills, using the best available technology and learning from proficient senior officers. He is trained on the job and at the Bank’s Staff Training Colleges and given the opportunity, through departmental exams of the bank or otherwise, to rise to the higher levels of management in the bank. He gets the opportunity of life-long learning in Banking, Finance, Management and other areas of his choice through various national level institutions set up for Bankers’ education. It is not surprising to find many senior executives in branches of various banks, as well as at the Regional, Zonal and Head Offices, to be from among those who had joined the bank in the clerical cadre.


Banking Recruitment Examinations

Public sector banks conduct two major examinations for recruiting Officers and Clerical Staff. These examinations are called:

1. Bank Probationary Officers (P O) Exams
2. Bank Clerks or Probationary Clerks Exams

Specialist Officers Exam: Banks also conduct recruitment exams for Specialist Officers to man their credit, legal, human resources, marketing, systems and other departments which have openings for candidates having requisite professional qualifications in agriculture, engineering, chartered accountancy, law, or a degree of MBA, MCA, etc.

Generally, the objective type exam conducted for Specialist Officers is similar to the Bank P O exams. In addition, a subject test is administered in the area of specialization.


Eligibility for Bank Recruitment Examinations

Bank P O Exams: For P O exams, any graduate with prescribed marks, and within the age group of 21 to 30 years, is eligible. The banks normally prescribe 55% or 60% marks in graduation for P O aspirants. Some banks (though rarely) may prescribe 65% marks in graduation or a post-graduate degree as minimum eligibility. Some banks prescribe different sets of marks for science graduates and arts or commerce graduates. However, every bank provides for relaxation in age and educational qualifications for SC/ST and reserved category candidates. Normally, SC/ST candidates are given a relaxation of 5 years in age limit and 5% in marks.

Bank Clerical Exams: In clerical exams, a graduate (or even an applicant who has passed the class 12 exam with prescribed marks) who is within the age-group of 18 to 28 years is eligible to apply. Generally a pass in graduation or 60% marks in class 12 is prescribed as the minimum eligibility. However, some banks prescribe only graduation as minimum eligibility. A relaxation in age and educational qualifications is given to reserved category candidates as per government rules.

(As every bank is free to decide the eligibility criteria for its officers or clerks, the candidates must read the notifications carefully and ensure their eligibility before submitting applications.)

Computer literacy: Computer literacy is sometimes compulsory, but usually a desirable qualification for both P Os and clerks. A bank job aspirant must, therefore, secure a qualification or certification in computer applications.

Some banks even prescribe a diploma in banking and finance from the Indian Institute of Banking & Finance as a desirable qualification.


Patterns of the Banking Recruitment Exams

Both P O and clerical recruitments comprise at least two stages of selection, viz. a written test and an interview. The written test normally comprises an objective type segment and a descriptive segment. The interview is normally a personal interview, but could, sometimes, be a combination of group discussion and personal interview.

Bank P O Exam: The test areas in the objective type test of the P O exam include reasoning, quantitative aptitude, general awareness and English. However, the test of English, in most of the banking exams, is of qualifying nature and its marks are not considered while preparing the merit list of candidates to be called for interview.

The descriptive test in the P O exam tests the candidate’s writing abilities and is also of qualifying nature. The candidate is required to secure a minimum percentage of marks (normally 40% for general and 35% for reserved category students) to be called for the personal interview and/or group discussion, the last stage of the selection process.

In addition to these areas, some banks may include subjects like marketing and computer aptitude, financial awareness, socio-economic and banking awareness, data interpretation, data sufficiency etc. in their P O exams.

Bank Clerical Exams: The test areas in the clerical exam include reasoning ability, numerical ability, English and clerical aptitude. The test of English is generally of qualifying nature. Some leading banks like SBI and PNB have included subjects like Marketing Aptitude, Computer Knowledge and General Awareness in their clerical exam and have removed clerical aptitude from their tests.

The descriptive test in the clerical exam is of qualifying nature. However, some banks do not conduct a descriptive test and some have replaced the descriptive test with an additional objective test on computer knowledge.


How to apply

Banks may invite applications in writing or online. Students must apply in the format prescribed by respective bank. In the years 2008-09 and 2009-10, majority of banks have required online applications only.

The guidelines for filling in online applications are as follows: 

1. Candidates should have a valid personal e-mail ID. In case a candidate does not have a valid e-mail ID, he/she should obtain one. Third party e-mail IDs must not be used. The applicant’s e-mail id should remain valid during the entire recruitment process.

2. Candidates should be ready with their Demand Draft (DD) or proof of payments made by other stipulated modes, particulars of qualification, experience, etc. before applying online, as the details are required to be entered in the on-line application.

3. Please note that without valid payment details, online applications will be summarily rejected. Demand Drafts must be purchased on any date between the opening & closing dates of the website link available for online applications.

4. Demand Drafts should be for the requisite fee amount. The candidate’s name, date of birth, Post Office Name & Postal Code should be written on the reverse of the Demand Draft.

5. After applying online, the candidates must obtain a system generated printout of the application. A recent passport size photograph, with the applicants signature across it, should be affixed on the application printout.

6. The system generated application has to be signed by the candidate the appropriate places and sent, along with Demand Draft and other necessary certificates/documents, to the concerned Bank before the last date prescribed for submission.

Lastly and most importantly, the candidates must read the complete notification of every bank they are applying for, with utmost care. They must ensure their eligibility before making an application and must follow the procedure laid down in the particular notification.


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