A steady stream of customers flocks the cash deposit counter at Cathedral branch of Indian Overseas Bank on Anna Salai on Wednesday, giving little scope to the cashiers in the enclosed room to look elsewhere. Piles of currency bundles are put into the counting machines before being arranged neatly on a table. These machines generally run non-stop from 10 a.m. to 3.30 p.m. and collection at this counter, exclusively for Metropolitan Transport Corporation remittances, runs into several crore rupees.
“This is our daily routine. Usually the day after bank holidays or on Mondays the collection is even more,” says cashier D. Krishnamurthy, who has been in the banking sector for over three decades.
Given that the cash counters serve as the nerve centre of the banks, cashiers have an important role. In some private banks, working in the cash counter is one of the first tasks assigned to new recruits. “In banking terms we are called livewire as you get serious about the job only if you work in the cash section,” says Vijay (name changed), an employee with Axis Bank. He was assigned to the cash section within a month of joining the firm.
The cashiers come across customers, who are ignorant about banking terminology to people who bring fake currency. They are one of the main targets in case of a bank robbery.
“Never trust anyone'' is the first lesson imparted to them, says bankers. Whether it is a mistake in tallying, a wrong debit due to illegible handwriting or ensuring the authenticity of a signature, the cashiers' job requires complete presence of mind.
There is more work for them after the banking hours when they tally. Vijay recalls an incident when he was working in the cash section in Salem. A student had deposited a cash challan of Rs.4,000 and by oversight Vijay entered it as Rs.14,000 in the system. “An amount of Rs.10,000 was debited from my savings account that day itself,” he says. It was only after three months when he had another look at the challan that Mr.Vijay realised what caused the mistake. “The customer had written the amount in a different fashion,” he adds.
Mr. Krishnamurthy says he had even gone to a customer's house to collect the excess amount he gave by mistake. “Only after your tally matches would you be able to sleep peacefully that night,” he says.
Except for counting machines that have minimised the errors in counting currency, bankers say nothing much has changed about the job. The work can be monotonous, but most banks rotate the staff among the various departments. “Banks have reduced the manpower by installing such counting machines, but there is still a lot of work. Not many customers are comfortable carrying out transactions through the ATM,” says M. N. Radhakrishnan, chief cashier of Indian Bank, Ethiraj Salai branch, sitting in a grilled enclosure. The cashiers in some banks are also given additional responsibility of exchanging cut and soiled notes.
Contrary to popular perception that they enjoy spending hours amid currency bundles, many cashiers say it is not the case. Sitting in an enclosure and handling currency is not easy. Some of the cashiers wear masks as the dust particles from the bundles spread when placed on the counting machine.