8 Busted Myths Of Becoming A Banker

Alright, so your parents spent quite a huge amount of money for you to finally get hold of the degree you have always wanted, not to mention from your dream university. So now that you are finally a graduate, what next? Well, time has come for you to join the working class, climb up the ranks along with your batch mates and contribute back to your family and society. But then again, here comes the question that haunts every fresh grad, “What are the available jobs out there for me?” Here are some myths and pointers I have gotten over the years as a banker and would like to share them with you readers out there, especially to those leaning towards the banking industry.

1. You Get To Experience Touching A Million Ringgit In Cold Hard Cash

MyEducation - Cold Hard Cash

“Allow me to innocently move a million in cash to the vault without the need of surveillance.”

If the above is one of your dreams, well sad to break the bad news to you, but it’s still going to remain a dream. Truth be told, 99.9% of the employees in the bank do not even have the opportunity to lay their hands on a RM1 note, what more a Million Ringgit – this I mean property of the bank. The 0.1% that actually gets to handle the bank’s money are usually front line bank tellers. Bank tellers are the team of staffs who man the counters you see when you first walk into banks where you transact your deposits or withdrawals besides having it done over the ATM and Cash Machines. So although working in an organization that deals with loans, deposits and currencies, the only money sign that employees will be seeing is probably just over the computer screen or on paper. And trust me, it’s a good thing, you don’t know what temptation can do to you if it actually is made easily accessible to you.

2. You Got To Be Good At Math

Being Good At Math

“If only math was this easy…”

I’ve known a few friends who are good at Math and I must say, they are pretty smart in the way they think. Yes, being good at Math makes you smart but that isn’t a criteria to landing yourself a job in the bank. Those were the days when our Math teachers would sarcastically joke “Are you going to carry a calculator everywhere you go?” and 20 years down the road, well yeah, we do carry it everywhere in our phones. It’s the 21st century and the world is filled with advance tools and applications that makes calculation so much easier now. In fact, if we just Google – Answer for 1,354,871 divided by 234 squared power of 10, we may actually get the answer or probably with a little more clicks here and there. In fact most of the calculations are all preset with formula and fixed in templates where you just need to adhere to guided steps and you’ll manage through the job. So no you don’t necessarily need to be good in Math and an SPM qualification is all you need to get a job in the bank. Of course with lower qualification, do make it up with work enthusiasm and passion.

3. To Be A Banker You Need A Degree In Finance Or Economics

Degree In Finance Or Economics

“So all we need to do is balance out these numbers?”

This myth might be the case 2 or 3 decades ago. Well guess what? Things have changed since then and for the better too of course. Banks in actual fact do recruit students from various academic backgrounds. Why so you may ask? A bank, similar to any other company has many divisions under its care; there is the Marketing department where they focus on branding, there’s also the IT division that oversees the entire banking network system, there’s also the Human Resource team that manages payrolls and staffs’ career development and the list of other divisions just keeps going on and on. There are easily more than 50 divisions in a bank that requires different skill sets from the team.

I have many colleagues in the bank with various academic backgrounds such as Engineering or even Journalism. Your degree doesn’t really define what you are capable of, what matters most if your attitude to adapt and to get things done. If you are suitable for the job then why should your degree certificate be in the way of that? What you study back in University, may or may not be applicable to you when in the working world. One thing for sure is that the knowledge and experience you have acquired during your student days will most definitely come in handy in your working life and your experience will just further mold your career to better serve you in the future.

4. Bankers get the Fattest Salaries and Bonuses

A Lot Of Money As A Banker

“All I see is money, money and money.”

One of the very common mind set the people have towards bankers are that they have extremely fat salaries and ridiculously high bonuses. Honestly that perception is somewhat right and wrong depending on how you see it. First of all, you can’t generalize that all bankers are the same, you got to consider the seniority of the banker and the department they are from – be it a support of business one. In most cases, staffs from the business or sales team would earn higher Bonuses especially knowing that these are the drivers of the company. Their hard effort is what makes the bank profitable so it is only fair to reward handwork with something deserving. And yes, it’s pretty obvious that banks make huge profits so it’s only normal that performing staffs would get a fair share from the huge profit made by the bank. Not all bankers are performers so in actual fact, only a handful of bankers actually earn such massive bonuses but at times, they are just so huge to the point that it catches public attention and that’s when an assumption is formed that all bankers are the same. How I wish that was true.

5. Bankers Gets Special Favors

Favours Given To Bankers

“So I’m thinking of what you should get me on my birthday 3 years from now.”

There was once during my banking tenure that I paid a visit to a client’s car workshop as I needed some repair works done on my car. This happened quite a while back ago and I actually had the thought of just giving my client some support to his business, as he is after all a client of mine, so there I went. Met the boss, had my car diagnosed and then the repair works began. So after the wait and when the repair is finally done, here comes the part where I would pay the bill. I guess you would have expected that my client would offer me a special discounted price for what was done, but no. I mean yes there was a discount but it was like 100% off, literally FOC. I had in the past secured a loan for this client of mine at the bank’s expense which would then explain why the royal treatment he was giving me, but call me an honest freak but I insisted on paying the bills. The haggling went on and on and at the end of the day, I walked away paying for the bill but as a much more reasonable discounted price, and by that I mean a slightly lower than going rate. Ethics and integrity plays a central role in being a banker, yes you will most likely come across countless special offers and temptations if you may call it but if you hold stern to your work professionalism, you will eventually earn your due ‘favors’ the appropriate way.

6. Endless Entertainment Budget With A Long List Of Allowances

Entertainment Budget For The Job

“I get to claim all these entertainment! And it’s part of the job!”

Another myth made really popular thanks to Hollywood and the other movies industries is the splashing of entertainment budget. Just imagine “Wolf of Wall Street’ or ‘The Rogue Trader’, yes you get what I’m talking about, it’s just spend, spend and spend for the sake of entertaining and the best part is, it’s not even your money. Sounds awesome doesn’t it, but in reality, try doing so and the only spend you will be doing next is your time looking for a new job. Yes banks do have entertainment budget allocations, in fact banks are pretty well known to offer attractive remuneration package such as lifestyle allowance, insurance coverage, staff loan, travel allowance, training budget and so forth. Remember that this is a bank and not a party house, so everything has its limits, every expense must be justified with return projections, so spend wisely. And like everything else in the bank, there are arrays of rules and conditions to strictly adhere to so if you can’t justify yourself the next day, you are in for a very long hang over.

Entertainment budgets and allowances are set based on employee’s corporate status so the higher you climb, the higher your limits would be. In most cases, entertainment budgets are only allocated for sales staffs solely for the purpose of entertaining clients. The ROI for such spend is to either secure an ongoing business deal or to simply foster closer business relationship for future deals. As long as there are valid reasons to your expenses, especially if it benefits the organization, feel free to utilize your job entitlements.

7. Everyone Respects The Wise Words Of A Banker

Respect Given To Bankers

“Time to be proactive and get working!”

You got a lump at the back of your neck, it doesn’t hurt but you are worried. You consult a doctor and the doctor says it’s nothing and you are as healthy as a bull. The moment the doctor tells you that you are OK, you explode with joy. A doctor is an expert in the field of medical which explains why simple words from a doctor can have such great impact on you simply because of the trust you have on the profession. Similar to bankers, they are the experts in the field of banking and finance and their advices on investments and business outlook carries a lot of weight. Sad truth is that unlike how doctors are revered in their field of expertise, a banker isn’t exactly looked at the same way. In most cases in recent times, people see bankers more of just a straight up salesman. Anything out from the mouth of a banker is either for the benefit of the bank or simply for themselves, sales incentives, commission and so forth.

Of course not all bankers are treated the same, it all depends again on seniority and the division in the bank where the banker works – credit card sales, trade analytics, risk management, commercial banking, etc. Bankers in the line of work where requires more working experience and on field knowledge would of course tag along more respect as compared to those for the fresher bankers and lesser job entry requirements. So in short, bankers are not always right and the smartest lot when it comes to the financial world. We are just like everyone else where we may just know more than others, and perhaps even lesser depending on the topic of interest. So it’s best to first know what the bankers’ field of expertise is before taking any of his or her words seriously.

8. Only Wear Suits And Ties

Nice Suits As A Banker

“Watch the suit ladies and gents … I’m a banker.”

Ok before we go deeper into this topic, if your impression on bankers’ dress code is based on the movies you’ve been watching, ok let’s get that corrected because you are so wrong. First things first, it’s cold in the west and it’s warm in Malaysia, so wearing suits all around in Malaysia is just going to make you look like a walking fountain as compared to that in America where the jacket actually keeps you warm and comfy. You’ve probably heard the common phrase “Looks matters”. Well in fact yes it actually does, imagine yourself with a million Ringgit and you would like to invest it on some shares for good returns of course. One guy walks up to you in slippers and a hole in his shirt and another comes to you in a tailored suit with a well groomed hair, both representing the same bank. There’s a pretty high chance you would rather invest your money on the second banker because he seems more organized while the first banker don’t even seem to know how to take care of himself what more your money.

We naturally make judgments on others based on their first impression simply to only protect ourselves. No one likes to be kept in the dark so we light it up ourselves until proven otherwise. It’s good to dress to kill but don’t overdo it. Wearing a suit when meeting a client who operates a car workshop may seem a little too extravagant and may in turn create inferiority among your customer and ultimately possibly losing the customer. As long as your customer is not comfortable with you, how can you expect your customer to trust you? In the case where you have meeting to attend with your CEO or you have a presentation to make to the board at Bank Negara then yes, go suit up as it simply show that you dress in respect of the occasion. So in short, it’s not always suits and ties in the banking industry, put the power dress, power shoe and thick perfumes on standby for important days and for the rest of the other days, just dress smart and appropriately.

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