With the advent of technology, bank workers are on the verge of disappearing from the workforce

The latest data on employment in separate banks from the Reserve Bank of India showed that the share of clerical jobs in the Indian banking system fell from over 50% in the early 1990s to 22% in 2020-21 .

Clerks, who interface with bank customers, also do the work of tellers, tellers and act as assistants to managers. Representative picture

Experts predict that digital technology and artificial intelligence will cause some banking jobs to disappear. This is currently happening in India.

As technology is able to solve simple tasks like moving files and customers, especially in urban areas, are turning to online transactions rather than visiting banks, the ubiquitous “clerk” in banks seems to become redundant.

According to a report in mint, banks are gradually reducing the recruitment of clerks. The report cites the latest segregated banking employment data from the Reserve Bank of India, which shows that the share of clerical jobs in the Indian banking system has fallen over the past few years from over 50% to early 90s to 22% from FY21.

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Clerks, who interface with bank customers, also do the work of tellers, tellers and act as assistants to managers. As traditional jobs such as updating passbook, cash deposit, checking know your customer details, payroll downloads are increasingly going digital, this leads to layoffs.

Personal-robot

Companies like Axis Bank, ICICI Bank and HDFC Bank are pushing the boundaries of technology by implementing robotics to centralize operations and speed up turnaround times in areas such as processing loans and selling financial products to customers. This reduces the need for a manual worker.

The advent of third-party vendors has also made it easier to manage mundane tasks.

According to an expert, technology and automation have played a major role in changing the distribution of labor in banks and even public sector banks. Less paperwork and less staff in bank branches as customers are busy transacting online has drastically reduced the role of the employee. Additionally, office roles are no longer as essential to banking as they once were.

Khandelwal Panel Report

The report in mint also pointed to suggestions made by a committee, headed by Anil K. Khandelwal, the former President and CEO of Bank of Baroda in 2010. The committee was studying human resource issues in public banks.

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The report had urged banks to address the continued requirement for office jobs in a post-CBS (basic banking solution) environment. And that they must “deliberate seriously” on future office staffing needs.

Clerks should no longer be recruited on the basis of replacing retired staff, or due to branch expansion and a spike in business. This creates a long-term financial burden and will affect productivity, the Khandelwal report pointed out. Recruitment experts also said that changes in banks’ focus areas have impacted these jobs.

Banking unions, however, are against this tendency to obliterate employees and want to make these roles more relevant. They are considering the possibility of requiring an upgrade in the power of frontline office staff. This demand will be ostensibly put forward during the bipartisan agreement between the union and the Indian Banks’ Association (IBA).

According to the Bank Employees Association spokesperson, clerks are actually cheaper and a useful resource. They will work better to maintain a better cost to income ratio as clerks can be recruited with a starting salary of ₹30,000 while officers will be required to earn a salary of ₹70,000.

Vanishing positions
According to a Wells Fargo report late last year, about 100,000 jobs could disappear over the next five years as major US banks invest more in digital banking and other technologies. Roles set to disappear include branch managers, call center workers and cashiers. It will be AI, cloud computing and robots that will play a bigger role in day-to-day banking functions such as accepting payments, approving loans and detecting fraud.

Michael A. Bynum