Banking Career for Dummies

I’ve been in banking all my career, that’s if I don’t count the two months I was jobless between NYSC and my first proper job. I don’t know if this is an unfortunate experience as some people swear by heavens that banking is the worst job on earth.

It’s not! Don’t mind bad belle people!
The Nigerian economy isn’t that developed so banking is one of those rare jobs that could bring in some decent paycheck. Yahoo tops the list followed by oil and gas. Our venerable old banking comes a distant third.

If you are going to start life as a banker though, there are some things you need to understand.

Banking is built on hard, cold numbers and bankers count beans so take special care to note that there ain’t no free food in Freetown.
If you don’t have the guts to tackle the impossible, don’t bother to apply.
Banking is a warzone; nobody takes prisoners.

Everyone screams about long hours, targets and what women do to survive banking.

While I know targets are as sure as rain or taxes however what women do is what women do and it’s nothing to do with banking. Most of my successful female colleagues (past and present) got where they are from hard work, grit and mental chops. If any of them did a customer, they would have done the customer if they weren’t bankers anyway.

Interviewing for a bank role
Don’t beat me up on this, but the average banker is fairly intelligent so when coming for the job, bring your brain along. Life throws all sorts at bankers so expect the most unimaginable issues to be sorted out for your customers.

Life is generally hard, I don’t fathom why some people could think banks are day care services.

While at it, learn to love the unlovable. In banking, the customer is always right and your opinion doesn’t count when they are angry. If you know you have short temper, don’t be a banker as your days may be numbered less than the count of toes of an ostrich.

One of the things an average Joe doesn’t understand is the grade level system in banking. Unlike other industries, grades in banking are separate and distinct from functional roles. Not knowing this can be very disadvantageous especially when crossing from a non-banking industry. The shock and disappointment will be crushing and demotivating! So please pay attention to what I want to say!

There is formula to the madness.
The professional grade system is similar across banks, with few variations. Grades at senior management, from Assistant General Manager and above, is regulated by the Central Bank of Nigeria. So welcome to banking and prepare to move up levels:

  1. Executive Trainee (ET)
  2. Assistant Banking Officer (ABO)
  3. Banking Officer (BO)
  4. Senior Banking Officer (SBO)
  5. Assistant Manager (AM)
  6. Deputy Manager (DM)
  7. Manager (MGR)
  8. Senior Manager (SM)
  9. Assistant General Manager (AGM)
  10. Deputy General Manager (DGM)
  11. General Manager (GM)
  12. Executive Director (ED)
  13. Deputy Managing Director (DMD)
  14. Managing Director (Oga at the top)

Additional information you should pay attention to:

  • Some have a grade before Executive Trainee usually called Graduate Trainee or any other fancy designation but you are not an ET
  • Others have a grade between Executive Trainee and Assistant Banking Officer
  • There could be a grade between Senior Banking Officer and Assistant Manager
  • Certain banks have two levels for Assistant Managers
  • About 4 banks have Principal Manager level between Senior Manager and Assistant General Manager grades. Look before you leap!
  • CBN doesn’t permit any level between General Manager and Executive Director anymore. Those who have been lucky to land there are grandfathered in
  • Quite a few banks don’t have Deputy Managing Directors
  • Most banks give official cars from Manager grade with just one or two throwing in a personal driver as well. Talk of living the life!

In terms of moving up the ladder, a smart and lucky dude gets promoted every 2 years but usually runs out of luck once he gets around the middle management grade. Let’s say he doesn’t, he would still spend at least 20 years before he becomes a General Manager.

The good old days have gone!
Banks hardly demote and I haven’t seen any before but if your bank gets acquired, you should start adjusting your lifestyle.
So you may ask, how do people get to where they are if it would take a zillion years to move from grade to grade? Well, bankers are sometimes called prostitutes, figuratively I mean. We tend to jump from bank to bank, picking up experiences, grades and hoping not to move from frying pan to microwave oven.

Long ago when there were many banks, people routinely got promotions once a year and some few unicorns got double a year. I recall when I started my banking career, I knew of guys who got to be AGMs before they turned 30 and at least two EDs who got appointed from AGMs. Those days have gone, probably never to come around anymore.

These days, most Assistant Banking Officers are between the ages of 30 and 35. Back in the late 90s, most CEOs were in the same age brackets. I guess the barrier is higher and people are bigger chickens, myself inclusive.
In conclusion, I could say I have had a good time in banking, absolutely no regrets.

Maybe it’s because I have never experienced life in other industries. I’m lucky to still stay in touch with my core love – Engineering so I hope by the time I get tired of banking or banking gets tired of me, I can find something else to tickle my fancy.

Drop a comment if you have other specific information about banking careers and I would be glad to respond within limits of what I know and without letting out official and confidential information.