Some banks are putting prospective brokers to the test - a psychological test, that is.
They administer questionnaires designed by industrial psychologists to determine whether the personality of a potential investment representative, or program manager, belongs in their brokerage.
Banks don't rely solely on psychological testing when picking their sales staffs, but some brokerage executives say the tests help answer key questions. These include:
How much investment risk will this person take? Is he or she comfortable pushing proprietary mutual funds? Will he or she get nervous speaking at investor seminars?
"Hiring is a very expensive process, so we try to get as much information as we can," said Lucia Aschettino, assistant vice president and brokerage program manager for New Haven Savings Bank. The Connecticut thrift began testing its broker applicants six months ago.
Some brokers say these tests are far from foolproof.
"If you know anything about our industry, you know how to answer questions properly to position yourself to get the job," said Page Brockman, an investment representative at Security Capital Bancorp, Salisbury, N.C. "I have a hard time believing a psychological test gives an accurate reflection of how well a broker can succeed."
Some bank brokerage chiefs, however, insist there are common traits in the personalities of successful brokers.
Top producers love their jobs. They aren't 9-to-5ers, but they don't obsess over work when they go home, either.
The best program managers are leaders who take initiative, make clear- cut decisions, and don't get anxious easily, they say.
New Haven's Ms. Aschettino said many investment reps don't mind the tests because they come from the insurance industry, which has traditionally examined agents' psychology. At her bank, prospective brokers' responses to particular statements are used to assess that person's job satisfaction, career worries, and attitudes about risk, and how well the applicant handles authority.
"It's easier to be a good actor and fake a good interview than a psychological test," insists Paul Werlin, a bank-brokerage recruiter in St. Petersburg, Fla., who uses psychological tests.
Of the more than 125 investment representatives Mr. Werlin has tested, he has recommended rejection for about one-third, he said.