A bankable option

Despite the downturn, banks continue to recruit liberally and have become the preferred choice of many job aspirants.
Arunima Mishra        Print Edition: Nov 10, 2013
Rajesh Dahiya (second from right) of Axis Bank at an employee interaction session in Mumbai
Rajesh Dahiya (second from right) of Axis Bank at an employee interaction session in Mumbai Photo: Rachit Goswami/www.indiatodayimages.com

Sambit Priyadarshi, 25, always wanted to join the banking sector. An alumnus of Xavier Institute of Management and Entrepreneurship (XIME), Bangalore, he made up his mind to do so immediately after his summer internship with a company in the banking, financial services and insurance (BFSI) sector. Despite better paid job offers from a multinational bank and a consultancy firm, Priyadarshi chose the public sector Bank of Baroda (BoB) because he wanted job security and the facilities provided by such banks. He joined BoB in Ahmedabad as a Human Resource (HR) officer this September.

"Indian banks have immense potential," says Priyadarshi. "Because of their global outreach and size, they are exciting to work for. They provide excellent working conditions and learning opportunities, attractive compensation packages, friendly work environment, online learning and more." He hopes BoB will post him overseas in places where it has a presence, such as Southeast Asia.  

Like Priyadarshi, many youngsters have lately been attracted to the banking sector. Banks have seen an addition of around 45,000 people every year for the last three years.

According to various industry reports, hiring in the sector is likely to rise further - over a million in the next five years - because a large number of bank employees are reaching retirement age. BoB, for instance, will be recruiting 4,000 officers in 2014/15, because large numbers of employees are retiring. "About 50 per cent of our workforce is aged above 50 years," says S.K. Das, Chief General Manager, HR Management, BoB. "We expect our young workforce to double in the next four years."

Also, given the government's focus on financial inclusion and rural penetration, there is huge headroom for growth - and consequently employee intake - as well. Nearly 40 per cent of the country's population is still unbanked.

Says Moorthy Uppaluri, CEO of leading HR services firm, Randstad India and Sri Lanka: "Public sector banks are planning to recruit 500,000 to 700,000 people in the next few years, as close to 50 per cent of their workforce in the lower and middle level functions will be retiring. Also, to meet their rural banking targets, it is estimated that close to 500,000 banking correspondents will be taken on." Uppaluri adds that India is emerging as a leading global banking and financial services back office hub and there is growing traction with global banks and their IT partners to hire the right talent.

Neither is bank recruitment being confined to trendy metros and top level institutes. Banks are increasingly looking at Tier-II and Tier-III cities. Numerous graduates and postgraduate candidates are joining banks from mid-level institutes in these places.

Banks often seek the help of HR service providers such as Randstad, the Institute of Banking and Personnel Selection (IBPS) and training academies such as Manipal Global Education Services (MaGE) to recruit and train the newcomers.

In the January to March quarter this year, even in the banking sector, hiring was subdued. But in the last few months, Randstad has seen increased uptake in hiring across levels in Mumbai, Delhi/National Capital Region (NCR), Chennai, Pune and Bangalore.

What qualities do banks look for while recruiting for operational jobs? High analytical skills and an economics and statistics background, are prominent among them. For commercial banking, candidates with exposure to customer facing roles, customer care and consultative selling are preferred. "In the rural banking division, candidates with a background in agriculture are given preference, as such people understand the sentiments of the customers in rural regions," adds Uppaluri.

In 2011, IBPS announced a common written examination (CWE) for the selection officers and clerks in banks. This examination is now mandatory for anyone who wants to join any of the 20 public sector or regional rural banks. All banks use written exams and interviews for recruitment. Unlike in the past, all the written tests are now online. Private banks also conduct similar tests, but they have a choice of partnering with IBPS or private assessment companies such as MeritTrac.

MaGE has been providing customised talent development, induction, onboarding and leadership programmes since 2007. Several banks, both in the public sector and private, have taken advantage of it to get their long-term probationary officers (POs) trained. "Banks send those recruited for a 12-month training programme here," says V. Sivaramakrishnan, Executive President (Education Services), MaGE. "Of these, nine months training happens in our residential campuses in Bangalore and Jaipur, followed by three-month training at the respective banks." So far around 10,000 bank officers have trained at the Academy, with another 11,000 scheduled to do so this year.

There is also the ICICI Manipal Academy for Banking and Insurance (IMA) a joint venture of the ICICI Bank and the Manipal Group. It was set up in 2007 to train selected personnel of ICICI Bank and make them 'industry ready'.

Other private banks are also paying considerable attention to recruitment and training. Says Subhro Bhaduri, Executive Vice President and Head, HR, Kotak Mahindra Bank: "As we don't always get the right talent, we are tying up with universities and professional bodies to get trained personnel." On training, Axis Bank believes in creating all-rounders. "As part of the experiential learning module, all our employees have to try different roles and it's mandatory for them to spend a minimum amount of time in our existing branches that gives them a different experience," says Rajesh Dahiya, President, HR, Axis Bank.

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