A passion for customer service and a thorough understanding of financial products are essential for a career in retail banking

As a retail banker you will work in banks and building societies that can be found on the high street, although there are now increasing opportunities to work for online banks and supermarkets, which offer banking services.

You will help with the financial requirements of individuals and businesses and provide advice and financial services. This can include:

  • assisting in the movement of money via payment mechanisms;
  • authorising loans and overdraft facilities;
  • setting up saving accounts and bonds.

Private banking is a sub-section of retail banking, which typically deals with high net-worth individuals, often defined as those with more than £1million to invest.

Retail banking is also known as consumer banking.

As a manager of a retail bank you will be expected to increase the sale of financial products and services, attract new customers and manage a team of staff.

Responsibilities

Being a manager of a retail bank branch is similar to other management opportunities. You will be responsible for:

  • managing, recruiting, and coaching teams of people;
  • dealing with customer complaints that can't be solved by front-line staff;
  • implementing new products, services and processes devised by head office;
  • representing the bank within the wider community and building relevant contacts;
  • opening and closing the branch daily and ensuring that the premises are fit for business;
  • meeting sales targets and managing budgets.

Responsibilities for more junior bankers may include:

  • dealing with customers queries face-to-face, over the telephone or in writing;
  • serving customers at the counter;
  • understanding customer needs, recommending suitable products and making sales;
  • processing paperwork from sales, change of customer details, closure of accounts and so on;
  • learning about new products, services and processes.

Salary

  • On a graduate management trainee programme you could earn in the region of £18,000 to £25,000, with possible joining bonuses (of around £2,000) and other bonuses while training.
  • After training, salaries can rise to around £21,000 to £40,000 with bonuses for your first branch management role.
  • Senior managers may earn in the region of £40,000 to £60,000, with those in regional offices and specialist management roles earning above this. Central management roles can earn in excess of £80,000.

Many employers offer a range of benefits including private healthcare, contributory pension, share schemes and life insurance. Some also offer a 'large town allowance' for staff who need to live in expensive areas or commute for the job. This is typically £1,000 to £2,000 outside London and £2,000 to £3,000 within London.

Income figures are intended as a guide only.

Working hours

You will typically work 9am to 5pm but if you work in a branch, you may also do shifts at the weekend depending on the opening hours of the branch. Those on management teams, including graduate trainees, may be expected to work extra hours and be flexible to ensure that service levels are maintained.

If you work in phone or internet banking, you may be expected to work shift patterns to provide the 24-hour banking that customers demand.

Part-time, flexible working and career break opportunities are possible.

What to expect

  • The majority of senior management positions continue to be male-dominated, but an increasing number of females are attaining these positions. Aiming to encourage the potential of women in this field is Women in Banking and Finance.
  • Promotion opportunities may be greater if you are willing to relocate.
  • Retail bankers often work in a branch; meeting customers face-to-face, and directing operations from the offices out of the way of the public. Increasingly though, banking services are offered over the phone and via the internet working in open-plan offices, or in rows of call centre staff. Whatever the case, bankers spend a lot of time on the phone, or in meetings.
  • As a manager, you may be required to attend local business and charitable functions.
  • There are no opportunities for self-employment in retail banking.
  • You may cover a number of branches, so you will need to travel between them. You will also be required to attend regular area and regional meetings.
  • Most towns have a number of bank branches, and phone and internet banking service centres are situated throughout the country. This means that there are opportunities all over the UK, though they are concentrated in the major towns and cities.
  • The opportunity for international travel is rare in retail banking, but some multinational banks will offer the chance to move overseas.
  • If you work in a branch then you are likely to be provided with a uniform, other roles tend to require smart business dress.

Qualifications

Graduate management training programmes are widely available in retail banking. They are open to all graduates, and you do not need to have a finance-related degree.

Retail banks usually require you to have a 2:2 or above, some require at least a 2:1.

Although a specific subject is not required, particularly helpful degrees include:

  • business studies;
  • economics;
  • management;
  • marketing;
  • mathematics.

If you don’t have a degree you may be able to join a bank in an entry-level customer service role and work up to management level through in-house management courses, some of which are fast-track programmes.

Increasingly, banks are looking to recruit people from their competitors, or even retailers from other industries.

A pre-entry postgraduate qualification is not usually required but Masters-level students may apply for graduate entry training programmes.

Skills

You will need to show evidence of:

  • customer service focus;
  • sales orientation;
  • verbal and written communication skills;
  • flexibility and the ability to adapt to changes in the short and long term;
  • leadership;
  • management and coaching skills;
  • commercial awareness and business acumen.

Work experience

Pre-entry work experience is desirable in a financial or customer-led environment. This may include:

  • vacation work;
  • sandwich placements;
  • internships and temporary or permanent work experience.

Employers

There are number of banks and building societies with branches on the high street. Some of the big banks include:

  • Barclays;
  • Co-operative;
  • Halifax;
  • HSBC;
  • Lloyds TSB;
  • Nationwide;
  • Royal Bank of Scotland;
  • Santander.

Following the economic downturn some banks have closed, down-sized, merged with others, or outsourced their services but branch management roles and graduate training schemes are still available.

Banking services are also being offered by different sources, with a particular growth in supermarket banking.

Some banking services are run without branches and instead offer a combination of telephone and online banking, such as First Direct.

Look for job vacancies at:

Professional development

As a new employee you will usually go through an induction process to train you in the products and services that the bank offers. This training will cover customer and risk management.

Regular training will also be carried out to keep staff members up to date with any changes to products.

If you are on a management training scheme, it will most likely be a structured programme. This typically involves spending some time in the branch so you understand the role of the staff you're managing. It involves learning about related services such as credit cards, loans and small business banking. You'll also spend time in regional offices.

The programmes usually include taking some professional qualifications. These can be taken if you aren't on a graduate scheme but are working in banking and would like to try to progress to management level.

For a range of qualifications including the Professional Diploma in Banking Practice and Management and the Professional Certificate in Banking see ifs University College.

The only organisation that can offer the designation of Chartered Banker is the Chartered Banker Institute. It also offers other qualifications such as the Professional Banker Certificate or Diploma in Financial Advice.

It's important to keep up to date with any changes in the banking and finance industry. The British Bankers' Association (BBA) runs a range of events throughout the year. These includes:

  • briefings;
  • conferences;
  • seminars;
  • training workshops.

Career prospects

If you are not part of a graduate management scheme, with experience and professional qualifications, your career could take the route of:

  • team leader;
  • assistant manager of a department or branch;
  • branch manager;
  • regional manager.

If you are on a graduate scheme, you will usually go into a management role upon successful completion of the scheme.

There is usually progression onto senior branch manager of a large branch or group of small branches, followed by regional management where you support a number of regional branch managers.

It is also possible to move out of branch management and into a central office role such as:

  • marketing;
  • project management;
  • product development;
  • risk management.

You may move banks in order to progress or you might move into other financial roles such as insurance.

Other retail areas, such as supermarket management or general management of a call centre or large store, are also open to retail bank managers.