HomeIndustryThe curious case of missing clerks from banks’ workforce

The curious case of missing clerks from banks’ workforce

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With technology taking over mundane tasks, such as moving files, and the customer’s growing preference for online transactions instead of visiting branches, banks have gradually cut recruitment for clerical roles.

The share of clerical jobs in India’s banking system has declined over the past years from the highs of over 50% in the early ’90s to 22% as of FY21, showed the latest segregated bank employment data released by the Reserve Bank of India last week.

People in clerical roles typically perform jobs as tellers, cashiers and assistants to officers, besides preparing documents. The primary difference between the role of a clerk with that of an officer is the latter’s ability to sanction loans and advances.

Experts said the quick march of technology resulted in lower dependence on clerical roles, and the shift in the way people bank has also contributed to the trend as the long queues at branches, at least in urban areas, have declined following the advent of mobile phones and cheap data plans.

“Technology has played a major role in changing the workforce distribution at banks and even at public sector banks. The change is visible. That and automation, I feel, have led to the clerical roles being not as central to bank operations as earlier,” said Veinu Nehru Dutta, managing partner, FyneHand Consultants. Nowadays, one does not need to move too many files or have much paperwork as a lot of it has been automated. Third-party vendors have taken over some of these roles, Dutta added.

“Bank branches used to have a large number of people, but that has changed now. You do not need that many staff in such roles when most people are using online transactions,” she said.

A committee, which was tasked with looking into human resources issues at state-owned banks, said in a 2010 report that banks must look into the continued requirement of clerical jobs in a post-CBS (core banking solution) environment. Banks need to seriously deliberate on the future requirement of clerical staff, and clerical strength cannot be determined on the basis of head-to-head replacement, the panel headed by Anil K. Khandelwal, the former Bank of Baroda chairman and managing director, had said.

The report highlighted the fact that banks were recruiting the clerical staff on a simplistic calculation of factors such as retirement, branch expansion and increase in business. This creates a long-term financial burden and will affect productivity, it added.

“The clerical posts have reduced as digitization has made many such jobs redundant. There have also been a lot of changes in the focus areas for banks which have impacted these jobs,” said Aditya Narayan Mishra, chief executive of Ciel HR Services.

Bank unions are opposed to sidelining clerks and want to take measures to make such roles more relevant. They are contemplating pushing for upgrading the powers of frontline clerical staff at the bipartite settlement between the union and the Indian Banks’ Association (IBA).

“They are less expensive and are a useful resource, considering that all banks are targeting better cost-to-income ratio. Why should one hire more officers at a salary of 70,000 when banks could hire more clerks at salaries starting at 30,000?” said C.H. Venkatachalam, general secretary, All India Bank Employees’ Association.

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