Picture this. It is a fine dusty morning in an ancient land, some four thousand years ago. A merchant, at the ripe old age of 19, is handing out bags of grain in exchange for a few trinkets and clay pots. That is one of the earliest forms of banking, with our friendly merchant being one of the early bank officers, loaning grains for collateral.
Banks have developed, over centuries, along with the concept of assets, whether in the form of money, food, land, and even goats. Lending, storing, safe-keeping, and record-keeping, evolved simultaneously as well.
And while our friendly neighborhood bank has become far more structured and institutionalized, with no wandering or grazing goats in the premises, the basic idea still finds its roots way back in those early days of banking – still evolving and still a crucial part of all civilizations.
The Banking sector is one of the fastest growing sectors in India. To back this up with numbers, bank deposits have grown at a rather rapid compounded annual growth rate of 12%, to $1.54 trillion, from 2006 to 2017. The credit growth, in 2017-18, is also expected to be at 7-8%.
With such large, and fast, expansions, there is a constant need for banking officials to carry on the tradition of lending/borrowing and money management. Especially with a huge demand from India’s 27 public sector, 26 private, 46 foreign, 56 regional rural (RRB), 1,547 urban cooperative, and 93,913 rural cooperative, banks (source) and their numerous branches.
There are several competitive selection processes catering to the needs of the banking sector. Among these, there is an especially rigorous recruitment procedure to select Bank Probationary Officers (PO)/Management Trainee, the managerial level entry post in most public sector, and some private sector banks.
In this article, we will talk about the ins and outs of a career path as a Bank Probationary Officer – what does a PO job entail, what makes a candidate eligible to become a PO, how does one become a PO, and what can you expect to obtain, in terms of career growth, and compensation, as a PO in the Indian banking sector.
A bank PO entry is the first step towards management. Technically, a bank PO is a lower grade Assistant Manager. The first two years (training period varies between banks), as a Probationary Officer, are, well, probationary.
There is no single role but rather a litany of small, to big, tasks performed towards a wholesome training in banking activities. It may start off with small jobs – learning accounting procedures, loan and investment handling, daily banking activities, customer complaints and feedbacks, discrepancies, and daily cash flow checks and balances – and gradually move on to more responsible roles assisting the branch manager. Here is a short summary of expected responsibilities.
The list can carry on and essentially envelope all the training required to serve as a branch head, and more.
Bank POs, or Assistant Managers, can make close to INR 50,000/- inclusive of various allowances. The career path, from a management trainee to higher management, can be quite rapid, taking often only a few years to make it to a General Management position, which, as you can guess, is one of the most sought after and lucrative careers in India.
Banking officers are expected to transfer to locations dictated by the bank’s requirements. Every officer spends a minimum of 3 years before relocating to another branch, making the banking profession a bit unsettling while redeeming itself with the huge perks and compensation. So, if you are choosing a career path in management, you should register for your frequent flyer miles and be ready to take to the road every three years.
Back in 1969, 14 major banks, in India, were nationalized and a single body aimed at training and research was established – The National Institute of Bank Management (NIBM). To make bank recruitment scientific, transparent, and standardized, the NIBM created a faction, the Personnel Selection Service (PSS) to serve bank official recruitment for participating banks, mostly public.
This PSS unit was later converted to The Institute of Banking Personnel Selection (IBPS). IBPS provides services to all public-sector banks, SBI, RBI, NABARD, SIDBI, some cooperative banks, LIC, RRBs, public sector undertakings of non-financial sectors, government departments, and more.
Currently, the IBPS conducts exams, on specific released-dates each year, for posts of Probationary Officer (PO), in the public-sector banks. The State Bank of India conducts its PO selection independently.
The participating banks for the 2018-19 tentative vacancies are listed below.
|Allahabad Bank||Canara Bank||Indian Bank||Syndicate Bank|
|Andhra Bank||Central Bank of India||Indian Overseas Bank||UCO Bank|
|Bank of Baroda||Corporation Bank||Oriental Bank of Commerce||Union Bank of India|
|Bank of India||Dena Bank||Punjab National Bank||United Bank of India|
|Bank of Maharashtra||IDBI Bank||Punjab & Sind Bank||Vijaya Bank|
The selection process takes place in three stages – two phases of an online Common Written Exam (CWE), preliminary and main, and the third stage is an interview of the qualifying candidates.
Each year the participating banks release their tentative vacancy number, which is usually of the order of a few thousand openings. The actual allotment is based on business needs, expansions, and other factors, dependent on the banks.
You can visit the IBPS website for the exam announcement, and register online, to appear for the exam, which usually takes place in October over a few days and across the various test centres in the country.
The application fee is INR 600/- (INR 100/- for SC/ST and Physically Disabled-PWD). Qualifying candidates appear for the Main exam in November. Results are declared soon after and the interviews take place in the next couple of months. SC/ST candidates can avail of a Pre-Exam training whose details are available on the website.
The candidates are tested for English, Quantitative Aptitude, and Reasoning Ability in the Prelims. The Main exam tests Reasoning and Computer Aptitude, General Economical and Banking Awareness, English, and Data Analysis and Interpretation. There is also an English essay writing evaluation. The interview is based on general awareness, banking, and the background of the candidate.
|Exam Type||Language and Duration||Scoring|
|Preliminary||English/Hindi and 60 minutes||Max. 100 with 0.25 negative scoring for wrong answers|
|Main||English/Hindi and 3.5 hours
Note: PWD candidates are eligible for extra time. Visually impaired candidates can use a Scribe.
|Max. 200 (+25 for Essay) with 0.25 negative scoring for wrong answers|
Various banks have opted to associate with institutions to train POs through a Post Graduate Diploma in Management in Banking and Financial Services (PGDM-B&FS), a nine-month intensive curriculum, to meet the demands of skilled human resources with expertise in the industry. After a 3-month job training in a bank, they are offered an Assistant Management position at the bank.
ICICI, for instance, conducts a separate selection by testing candidates over a series of tests including an aptitude test, psychometric assessment, group discussion, and interview. Selected candidates undergo intensive banking, and financial, training at ICICI Manipal Academy in Bangalore, followed by a period of internship and on-the-job training with the bank.
As with many jobs in India, the PO position carries an age limit of minimum 20 years and maximum 30, with some age relaxations for SC/ST (5 years), OBC (3 years), Persons with Disability (10 years), candidates with a Kashmir domicile (5 years), persons affected by 1984 riots (5 years), and ex-servicemen and other military service officers (5 years).
The candidates should have at least an undergraduate degree from a government recognized university/institute. While an Indian citizenship may be an obvious eligibility criteria, citizens of Nepal, Bhutan, Tibetan refugees (from before 1962), and Indians settled in Pakistan, Burma, Sri Lanka, Kenya, Uganda, United Republic of Tanzania, Zambia, Malawi, Zaire, Ethiopia, and Vietnam, are also eligible to apply.
Of course, every other bank, not associated with the above IBPS eligibility criteria, is free to choose their own entry requirements.
Given the vastness of information, and their sources – ie., the innumerable banking institutions – it would serve you best to rigorously research the requirements and admission procedures of the bank of your choosing.
Needless to say, a PO job is an appealing career for many, making the PO entrance competition one of the strictest funneling processes ever – from lakhs of competing candidates to a few thousand appointments. So, play smart and chalk out your move well ahead, keep a Plan B ready, and don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Unless you are taking a cue from our ancient bankers, loaning out the basket in exchange for an alternate career move.
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