If you're a technology wizard trying to get a job at a bank, a good bet might be networking yourself into a programmer position, especially if you're skilled in the C and C++ computer languages. These are used in distributed computing, which is one of the hot spots in an otherwise declining job market.

In distributed-computing environments, mainframes, minis, and microcomputers share data applications and processing tasks through networks.

"The exciting jobs will be in [this category], local area networks, and PC and workstation technology," said Tim Meier, senior vice president of information services for Seattle-based U.S. Bancorp.

A Rare Growing Market

Applications development for distributed processing is the only area expected to show significant employment growth industrywide. Some 4% of all technical personnel currently work in this discipline, with the figure expected to reach 9% by 1995, according to the American Banker/Ernst & Young 1992 survey of banking technology.

The overall bank technology work force is expected to decline from 86,000 in 1992 to a projected 84,000 in 1995.

Nevertheless, the survey did uncover some good news for job seekers: 90% of the respondents said they view job candidates no differently if they are currently out of work.

"Since we're in a recession, being out of work carries no stigma at most banks," said Greg Schmergel, an Ernst & Young consultant and project manager for the 1992 survey. "A lot of highly qualified and skilled people are out of work right now."

Two Different Views

In fact, technology personnel are more likely to be between jobs simply because they are often "more tied to their area of technical expertise than to a particular job," said Rick Joers, vice president and director of human resources at Philadelphia's Provident National Bank.

U.S. Bancorp's Mr. Meier, however, has less sympathy for unemployed job candidates. "It's a difficult thing to overcome, particularly in terms of lower-level jobs," he says. "I know it's unfair because there have been cutbacks, but our feeling is that you don't let your best performers go."

Banks are using the tight job market to their advantage. Some 40% of the industry believes the depressed job market enables them to find better-qualified candidates for data processing jobs at lower salaries.

Banks are trying all available means to find people for open positions: 86% of the industry uses recruiters to find new technology personnel, 85% use help-wanted ads, and 92% use networking. When possible, however, most banks try to avoid paying costly headhunter commissions.

"Our most preferred method is networking because you get a strong candidate who comes highly recommended," said Ron Cybyske, senior vice president of information services for Banc One Services Corp. in Columbus, Ohio.

Banc One, like many others, has a incentive program that pays cash to employees who refer candidates subsequently hired by the bank.

The ongoing reduction in technology-related employment is deflating morale among employees, leading nearly half of the industry to use various methods to try to lift spirits.

At Provident, where restructuring has displaced some technical employees, the bank has been successful in placing people elsewhere within the company or on special projects. This tactic has "countered some of the depressed morale," according to Mr. Joers.

Subscribe Now

Access to authoritative analysis and perspective and our data-driven report series.

14-Day Free Trial

No credit card required. Complete access to articles, breaking news and industry data.