Financial Institution Tellers, Clerks, and Related Workers


Exploring this Job

You can explore the jobs in this field by visiting local financial institutions and talking with the directors of personnel or with people who work in these jobs. You should also consider serving as treasurer for your student government or a club that you are interested in. This will give you experience working with numbers and handling finances, as well as the opportunity to demonstrate responsibility. Learn about finances and the different kinds of financial instruments available by reading publications such as the business section of your local paper and Money magazine (also online at

Sometimes banks offer part-time employment to young people who feel they have a definite interest in pursuing a career in banking or those with business and clerical skills. Other types of part-time employment—where you learn basic business skills, how to interact with the public, and how to work well with other employees—may also be valuable training for those planning to enter these occupations.

The Job

Several different types of tellers may work at a financial institution, depending on its size. The teller the average bank customer has the most contact with, however, is the commercial teller, also known as a paying and receiving teller. These tellers service the public directly by accepting customers' deposits and providing them with receipts, paying out withdrawals and recording the transactions, cashing checks, exchanging money for customers to provide them with certain kinds of change or currency, and accepting savings account deposits. At the beginning of the workday, each teller is given a cash drawer containing a certain amount of cash from the vault. During the day, this is the money they use for transactions with customers. Their work with the money and their record keeping must be accurate. At the end of their shifts, the tellers' cash drawers are recounted, and the amount must match up with the transactions done that day. A teller who has problems balancing his or her drawer will not be employed for very long.

Head tellers and teller supervisors train tellers, arrange work schedules, and monitor the tellers' records of the day's transactions. If there are any problems in balancing the cash drawers, the head teller or supervisor must try to figure out where the error occurred and reconcile the differences. 

At large financial institutions, tellers may perform specialized duties and are identified by the transactions they handle. Note tellers, for example, receive and issue receipts or payments on promissory notes and recording these transactions correctly. Discount tellers are responsible for issuing and collecting customers' notes. Foreign banknote tellers work in the exchange department, where they buy and sell foreign currency. When customers need to trade their foreign currency for U.S. currency, these tellers determine the current value of the foreign currency in dollars, count out the bills requested by the customer, and make change. These tellers may also sell foreign currency and traveler's checks for people traveling out of the country. Collection and exchange tellers accept payments in forms other than cash—contracts, mortgages, and bonds, for example.

While tellers' work involves much interaction with the public, most of the work done by clerks and other related workers is completed behind the scenes. Clerks and related workers are responsible for keeping depositors' money safe, the bank's investments healthy, and government regulations satisfied. All such workers assist in processing the vast amounts of paperwork that a bank generates. This paperwork may consist of deposit slips, checks, financial statements to customers, correspondence, record transactions, and reports for internal and external use. Depending on their job responsibilities, clerks may prepare, collect, send, index, or file these documents, as well as manage data and records created as a result of electronic transactions. In addition, they may talk with customers and other banks, take telephone calls, respond to e-mails, and perform other general office duties.

The tasks clerks and related workers perform also depend on the size of the financial institution. Duties may be more generalized in smaller facilities and very specialized at larger institutions. The nature of the bank's business and the array of services it offers may also determine a clerk's duties. Services may differ somewhat in a commercial bank from those in a savings bank, trust company, credit union, or savings and loan. In the past, banks generally lent money to businesses while savings and loan and credit unions lent to individuals, but these differences are disappearing over time.

Collection clerks process checks, coupons, and drafts that customers present to the financial institution for special handling. Commodity-loan clerks keep track of commodities (usually farm products) used as collateral by the foreign departments of large banks.

Banks employ bookkeepers to keep track of countless types of financial and administrative information. Bookkeeping clerks file checks, alphabetize paperwork to assist senior bookkeepers, and sort and list various other kinds of material.

Proof machine operators handle a machine that, in one single operation, can sort checks and other papers, add their amounts, and record totals. Transit clerks sort and list checks and drafts on other banks and prepare them for mailing or electronic transmission to those banks. Statement clerks send customers their account statements listing the withdrawals and deposits they have made. Bookkeeping machine operators maintain records of the various deposits, checks, and other items that are credited to or charged against customer accounts. Often they cancel checks and file them, provide customers with information about account balances, and prepare customers' statements for mailing.

Messengers deliver checks, drafts, letters, and other business papers to other financial institutions, business firms, and local and federal government agencies. Messengers who work only within the bank are often known as pages. Trust-mail clerks keep track of mail in trust departments.

Other clerks—collateral-and-safekeeping clerks, reserves clerks, and interest clerks—collect and record information about collateral, reserves, and interest rates and payments. Letter-of-credit clerks keep track of letters of credit for export and import purposes. Wire-transfer clerks direct the transfer of funds from one account to another.

In addition to working in banks, people employed by financial institutions may work at savings and loan associations, personal finance companies, credit unions, government agencies, and large businesses operating credit offices. Although tellers, clerks, and other workers' duties may differ among institutions, the needs for accuracy and honesty are the same. Financial institutions are usually pleasant, quiet places to work and have up-to-date computers and office equipment. People who work in banking should be of good character and enjoy precision and detailed work.