Emma Harris, 33, is a bank manager at Abbey in Colchester.
What do you actually do?
Essentially, I look after our team of personal banking staff, who advise customers on products like credit cards and new savings accounts. It's my job to train and develop the team, by watching them in action and giving them plenty of feedback on how they interact with customers.
What's your working schedule like?
I work 35 hours a week, including some Saturdays. I try to give every day a set structure, so I get to the branch at 8.15 am, to prepare before we open the doors at 9am. At about 8.40am, we hold a "branch huddle" to talk about what's happening that day. We'll discuss sales and performance targets, and any new banking products being launched. I make sure everyone knows where I'll be that day, so they can find me if they need me. During the lunchtime rush, I usually sit with our personal bankers while they meet customers, to keep an eye on how they're doing. After we close at 5pm, I do a review with staff on how their day went, checking how we did in terms of service and sales. Normally I leave at 6pm, but one night a week I'll stay later and call customers we haven't caught up with in a while, to make sure all is OK.
What's the best thing about it?
I love talking to people face to face, and the constant interaction with the public. There's lots of variety – you never know what query you'll get next. I get a lot of satisfaction from knowing that I'm helping people save on their credit card bills. I don't feel like we're just selling loans and mortgages. We're helping customers save their money and stay on top of their finances.
Are there any downsides?
I work in a large, busy branch, managing a team of 15 people, doing about 500 transactions a day. The biggest challenge for me is fitting everything in, and catching up with everyone in my team. It's easy to get drawn into admin, but I really need to focus on managing people and giving them the support they need to do their jobs.
What skills do you need to do the job well?
You need excellent customer service skills, and to be aware of what the customer wants. You need to be able to cope with difficult situations and complaints, and to resolve them calmly. It's also very important to be a great coach and role model for your team. You should be an extremely good listener, and have a knack for asking people the right questions, because those are some of the key skills you need to develop in your team.
What advice would you give someone who wanted your job?
I joined Abbey at 16, straight out of school. Working my way up through the ranks has given me huge insight into how a big branch works at every level. I feel it helps with your credibility if you've done a stint in all the different roles in a bank. However, my job now is more about managing people, and if you're good at motivating a team, it's more helpful than just being able to balance the tills. I'd also advise people to look at our graduate training scheme, which gives graduates a fast track to management, by allowing them to shadow different roles in the bank.
What's the salary and career path like?
The salary for a bank manager at Abbey ranges from £19,600 up to £53,400, depending on the size of the branch and your experience. You could move to manage a larger branch, or become a regional manager, managing a cluster of around 10 to 14 branches. Or you could decide to specialise in mortgages or investments, managing mortgage and investment advisers across several different branches.