Customer advisers act as the public face of banks and building societies. They deal with customers in person and over the telephone.
Tasks may include:
The helpfulness of a customer adviser may contribute to a customer's future banking decisions, so the role is essential in winning new customers and keeping existing ones.
Many banking processes are now automated. Customer advisers use computers to check and record information, and to manage customers' accounts. Advisers in contact centres often work with automatic systems for taking calls and dialling customers.
Customer advisers work as part of a team and are responsible to a team leader. Besides dealing with customers, they are expected to contribute to improving the bank or building society's performance. They may take part in team activities to come up with ideas for increasing efficiency or improving customer service.
Customer advisers usually work 37 hours a week. Those working in a local branch are likely to work Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm. Some branches open on Saturdays. They may work on a shift or rota basis.
Where banks offer 24-hour support to their customers, customer advisers working in a contact centre environment may need to work nights, weekends and public holidays. Part-time and flexible working hours are common.
Customer advisers usually work in open-plan offices. A uniform is normally provided for those who have face-to-face contact with customers.
Salaries may start at around £11,500 a year. Many banks/building societies run target-based bonus schemes, dependent on individual or team performance. Benefits may also include special rates on mortgages, pensions, loans, share options and insurance cover.
Around 40,000 people in the UK work as bank/building society customer advisers. Banks and building societies have branches all over the country. Most have several customer contact centres, usually based in urban areas.
The sector is competitive and constantly changing. Some banks are setting up contact centres in India and other locations to save on costs. However, there is still a high demand for customer advisers in the UK.
Vacancies are advertised in the local and national press, and on bank and building society websites.
The minimum entry requirements are usually four GCSE's/S grades (A-C/1-3), including English and maths, or equivalent qualifications.
Most banks offer a range of entry programmes for A level/H grade and graduate recruits. Depending on the programme, entry requirements are usually at least three A levels/four H grades or a second class degree. Equivalent qualifications may also be accepted.
In Scotland, final year students in some secondary schools can study for a Certificate in Financial Services. This is aimed at people considering a career in the sector, as well as those already employed within it.
A range of Apprenticeships in financial services are available.
Apprenticeships and Advanced Apprenticeships provide structured training with an employer. As an apprentice you must be paid at least £95 per week; you may well be paid more. A recent survey found that the average wage for apprentices was £170 a week. Your pay will depend on the sector in which you work, your age, the area where you live and the stage at which you have arrived in the Apprenticeship.
Entry to Employment (e2e) can help to prepare those who are not yet ready for an Apprenticeship. In addition, Young Apprenticeships may be available for 14- to 16-year-olds. More information is available from a Connexions personal adviser or at www.apprenticeships.org.uk.
There are different arrangements for Apprenticeships in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Training is mainly on the job. Advisers may take in-house courses, or study for professional qualifications. Employers may fund the cost of examinations, provide study leave and offer financial incentives for successful candidates.
Customer advisers are expected to continue to learn new skills and keep up to date with new products offered by their bank and its competitors. Qualifications in various aspects of financial services are available right up to degree and postgraduate degree level.
NVQ's/SVQ's are available at Levels 2 and 3 in Customer Service, and Levels 2 and 3 in Retail Financial Services.
The Institute of Financial Services (ifs) School of Finance offers a wide range of courses for people employed in the finance sector, including the Level 3 Customer Service Professional (CSP) award.
The Chartered Institute of Bankers in Scotland also offers a range of qualifications, including a Certificate in Call Centre Operations and a Diploma in Financial Services. Graduates, and those who have completed the Certificate or Diploma qualifications, can progress to study for Chartered Banker status, designed for those seeking a management or specialist role in financial services.
Laboratory technicians carry out routine laboratory tests and perform a variety of technical support functions to help scientists, technologists and others with their work. They can work in research and development, scientific analysis and testing, education and manufacturing.
They are employed in a wide range of scientific fields which affect almost every aspect of our lives.
A customer adviser should be:
Customer advisers may specialise in a certain product range or sector of personal finance. With experience, they may be able to apply for promotion to a team leader or management role.
They may be able to move into a related field within the bank or building society, such as quality assurance, human resources or communications.
As banks operate on a global basis, there may be opportunities to work abroad.
Building Societies Association,
6th Floor, York House, Kingsway, London WC2B 6UJ
Tel: 020 7437 0655
The Chartered Institute of Bankers in Scotland (CIOBS),
Drumsheugh House, 38b Drumsheugh Gardens, Edinburgh EH3 7SW
Tel: 0131 473 7777
Financial and Legal Skills Partnership,
51 Gresham Street, London EC2V 7HQ
Tel: 0845 257 3772
Institute of Financial Services (ifs) School of Finance,
IFS House, 4-9 Burgate Lane, Canterbury, Kent CT1 2XJ
Tel: 01227 762609
Additional resources for job seekers and those already in a job.