With thousands of young people graduating from colleges and business schools across the country, American Banker reporter Steve Kleege asked:

Q What advice do you have for those thinking of a career in banking? What skills are you looking for when you hire?

* William L. Berry Chairman American Bancorp. Inc. Sapulpa, Okla.

I think there's a lot of opportunity in banking for young people, especially for those who are able to market investment products and loan products. I think the days of relying on customers to find you are over.

People that can learn the technical side of banking and also have the marketing skill to sell it have a great future. We currently sell annuities along with all the traditional banking products.

We've seen loan demand pick up lately. I still think the primary function of banking is to make good loans, and good lenders are always going to be needed.

* John H. Bloedorn Chairman The Farmers State Bank of Fort Morgan, Colo.

Customer skills is one of the biggest things for a bank person to have. Besides all the courses that might be helpful in the business world, arts courses - like public speaking and oratory classes - would be helpful.

I'd advise students to try to have an account relationship with their home bank and to visit the personnel officer and let them know they'd be interested.

Some of the starting positions might not be what they're after, but if they get in the bookkeeping and teller area, at least it gets their foot in the door.

* William L. Marks Chairman Whitney National Bank New Orleans

From a youngster's viewpoint, it is an exciting time to be getting into banking because there's change, and when there's change, there's opportunity.

The frustration level with those who've been in the business is fairly high because of regulation being heaped on us by Congress. But young people coming up can assimilate whatever the situation is and go forward with new ideas.

We're in three major businesses: retail banking, trust, and corporate banking, so we're looking for a pretty wide variety of skills. We hire people from backgrounds that range from liberal arts to finance. I think liberal arts provides an excellent background. Liberal arts graduates tend to be poised, good with people, and easy to coach.

* Richard H. Jones President Valley Bancorp. Appleton, Wis.

There are excellent career opportunities in banking. The whole economy revolves around banking. We provide the funding for folks to buy their cars and houses, and companies to build their inventories and plants and what have you.

Whatever kind of degree you've had - liberal arts, finance, accounting - you have to be a salesperson. Whether it's loans, mutual funds, or annuities, you have to sell. Communications is an outstanding skill to have.

Twenty years ago, where I am in northern Wisconsin, we were not so proactive. But now everyone is out there competing for your business, not just your own banking competitors but companies like AT&T and Sears.

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