Next Memory

Counter Productive


by David Parkes

My memories of working ‘on the counter’ relate to the 1960s, the period in my career when I mostly worked at Kingstanding, Duddeston, and Small Heath branches. The job in those days, some fifty years ago, was completely different to how it has evolved in the present era of computerisation and sales-driven targets. Even in the fundamental aspect of the job - the face-to-face relationship of the bank to the customer - it has changed, the cashier at the counter is no longer the only point of contact; telephone banking and on-line banking have given the customer alternative means of transacting their business.


Cashiering in the 1960s was done without any form of assistance provided by computers. All counter transactions were entered by hand, in passbooks and the cashier’s cash book, generally using pen and ink. (Although this was the period when the ballpoint pen had just become widely available, and the Bank had sanctioned its use, many staff continued to use a fountain pen.) The addition and subtraction of passbook entries, and the addition of cash book columns was done mentally, usually with great accuracy and speed.


And, unlike a bank cashier of the 21st-century, fifty years ago a cashier would not be sitting at the counter with the majority of information regarding the customer immediately available via a nearby visual display unit. Standing at the counter was the norm, and account balances, specimen signatures, etc had to be accessed by walking to where the relevant paper record was kept. During the busy Saturday morning and late evening opening periods, cashiers would be constantly on their feet, walking between record locations and their till. So it was a physically tiring job, as well as requiring considerable mental input, concentration, all of which had to be combined with the need to communicate with the depositor.


So, cashiers were required to have stamina, and they were also highly productive. Few cashiers spent the whole of their working day just operating a till. In between customers, cashiers would deal with a range of back-office tasks, particularly relating to the maintenance of account records. Following computerisation in the 1970s, many of these back-office tasks were done automatically, and other such tasks were later centralised at Customer Service Centres. Thus cashiers became more available for selling the Bank’s products - whether this arrangement of replacing multi-skilled staff with specialists was more productive is open to debate.


What has probably not changed much over the years, is the type of incident and type of customer that cashiers come into contact with. My time on the counter produced the following memories:


The vast majority of depositors were pleasant to serve, were grateful for the service that the Bank provided, and transacted their business in a perfectly normal way. There were, however, some exceptions to this general rule:


However, it takes all sorts - and there were eccentric people on the Bank’s side of the counter too - but that’s another story!





December 4th 2011