While the youth of America may have reservations about careers in banking, many top bankers have no qualms about recommending the profession. American Banker staff writer Jaret Seiberg queried six executives on the subject. Excerpts follow.
* Hugh L. McColl Jr Chairman and chief executive, NationsBank Corp Charlotte, N.C.
You are talking to someone who has had a very good career and has made a lot of money, so of course I would recommend it.
This is an industry in the midst of radical change, and change always presents opportunities. In fact, I can't think of any industry that offers more opportunity today.
Let's look at technology. There is a huge effort by banks to give customers access 24 hours a day from anywhere they want. That requires not only technical knowledge but ability.
We have an industry that has more capital than opportunities to deploy it. Consolidation will continue, and in consolidation you end up turning unimportant parts of companies into important ones.
If I were preparing to get a job, there are three things that are important. A student should work on understanding the world. We live in a global economy and you have to understand what that means. Also, learn something about computers - it doesn't have to be computer science, but knowing how to use computers to achieve management's goals. And third, you need to have knowledge of finance.
President and chief executive,
Fleet Financial Group
This is an excellent career as long as you understand that what is ahead is not what we have had in the past. The stereotypes of a banker do not reflect the banker of the future. The range of skills needed is so broad that almost any able person can fit in, whether on the sales side, the technological side, or the innovative side of product development.
Monetarily, it is more rewarding today. The industry is much more competitive. From a psychological perspective, it is equally rewarding, even though it is an entirely different business.
Downsizing is just a bend in the road. This has been a growth industry, particularly as we consolidate and bring insurance and investment banking products into the mix. Once the consolidation is completed by the end of this decade, this is going to be a growth industry again.
Smart, well-educated young men and women should give us equal weighting to investment banking and consulting, because the industries will become indistinguishable from each other.
W. Lee Hoskins
President and chief executive,
Huntington National Bank
I'd recommend looking at opportunity in the financial services business. I wouldn't necessarily call it banking. In the future, banking will still be done, but banks might not be doing it.
It is a terrific career with lots of opportunities for people with the basic ingredients: lots of marketing and sales abilities.
A college graduate ought to be selective about the banks they are choosing. If I was entering a career in banking, I'd look at what the strategy of the bank is. Are they looking at nonbanks as a major threat? Are they up to date on electronic payments and services?
David E.A. Carson
If you love excitement and change in a dynamic world, then come try the world of 21st century banking in an organization getting ready for that.
Opportunities for young people are best when the industry is in a period of change, and that is what is happening in banking. Young people who have a vision of what the world should be like in the 21st century should join.
The essential thing is finding dynamic organizations that are poised to grow. I don't think the charter makes any difference if they are preparing themselves for the new world. Charters are going to change, and financial services are going to change. You can be part of the creation.
I love to tell young people there are two disciplines in financial services that are roads to the top. One is mathematics, and one is psychology. You have to understand the numbers and you have to understand people, because we provide service to people whose needs are diverse.
Jeffrey R. Springer
For a certain type of personality, I would clearly recommend banking as a future.
My reasoning is that financial services as a whole will be a growth business over time. A person who has the attitude and drive to do well should succeed under those circumstances.
From the time I've come into banking until today there has been a significant shift toward greater regulatory controls and intervention. There is a tendency on the part of government on occasion not to let the free-enterprise system work. So if I said, "Would I be as happy today as when I entered it?" the answer would be no.
If you have entrepreneurial interests, that would be a negative. You have bright people coming out of school today who might not want to deal with that. There are a lot of students today who might be better off in a more free-enterprise environment.
Grafton (Wis.) State Bank
I'm firmly convinced the community banking business is going to continue. But it will require people who want the type of interaction with their community that many young people today may not feel is satisfying enough or challenging enough.
It will require a different kind of individual. They need to listen to customers, they need to want to talk to customers, they must feel satisfaction in serving those customers. They need good interpersonal skills and good computer skills, because community banks are just as computer-oriented as the larger banks.
It can be financially rewarding. You have an opportunity for ownership. You can actually, over time, develop a real stake and ultimately even own the bank if you have enough initiative.