Scored zero in data analysis? You can still have a career in banking


At a time when it is almost imperative for financial institutions to consume data like hungry whales and analyse every bit of it, 62 probationary officers (PO) working for India’s largest bank State Bank of India scored a “zero” in the Data Analysis and Interpretation section of their entrance test.

“Out of the candidates who got final selection as SBI PO, sixty two (62) candidates had scored Zero Marks in Data Analysis and Interpretation in the SBI PO Main examination 2017 (Advertisement no. CRPD/PO/2016-17/19),” the bank said in a response to a Right to Information (RTI) request. The response was reviewed by Moneycontrol.

In July, SBI selected 2,200 probationary officers from around 14 lakh applicants for the year 2017-18. These officers were selected on the basis of their aggregate score, which includes scores from other sections.

“Basically, our policy is to check the aggregate score and do not look at the cut-off of individual segments in the test. Also, we have negative scoring pattern for a wrong answer which also may have impacted the score,” said Prashant Kumar, SBI’s Corporate Development Officer or the Deputy Managing Director in charge of human resources.

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Also, Kumar said that Data Analysis and Interpretation was introduced only a year ago and that this was the second year. Students are likely to get more used to it going forward.

The examination for PO recruitment is held in two phases — preliminary and main. Candidates who clear the preliminary examination are then shortlisted to appear for the main examination. Candidates who clear both stages are then called in for group exercises and personal interviews.

The preliminary examination consists of objective tests, for a total of 100 marks, conducted online for a duration of one hour.  The test consists of 3 sections — English Language (30 marks), Quantitative Aptitude (35 marks) and Reasoning Ability (35 marks).

In the main examination, students have to take objective tests as well as a  descriptive test for 200 marks and 50 marks, respectively. The test lasts for a total of three hours and includes four sections — Reasoning & Computer Aptitude (45 questions for 60 marks), Data Analysis & Interpretation (35 questions for 60 marks), General/Economy/Banking Awareness (40 questions for 40 marks) and English Language (35 questions for 40 marks).

the vacuum in terms of quality, not quantity, of employees over the last 3-4 years. “Identification of certain roles …Also matching the talent with the size of experience and qualification with our salary levels is a challenge and we are working on it,” he said.

Kumar also spoke about the challenges in public sector banks in terms of upgrading skills and hiring more mid-level positions, largely in specialized areas like credit, risk, IT, etc.

Raise entry standards for public sector banks

Experts are of the opinion that there needs to be some serious introspection about the state of affairs at top banks in the country. Most of them suggested it was time for us to rethink what actually matters to a bank in this age of high technology and data mining, and make changes accordingly to the entry barriers for important jobs in the banking sector.

Aditya Narayan Mishra, CEO of human resources consultancy firm CIEL HR, said data interpretation is critical for financial services and should be considered a top priority when selecting people to work as bankers.

“It is surprising. It may show that the candidates may not be adequate to handle data and numbers. Numbers should be a banker’s second nature. Mathematics, arithmetic, numerical aptitude, data interpretation, these are important skills for a banker and then comes the verbal and general awareness tests. It must hold 40-50 percent of weightage for such professions,” Mishra said.

CIEL HR actually recruits employees for private banks and Mishra said that data interpretation was a very important criteria for selection. “We have cut-offs for these individual segments depending on the difficulty levels and the number of positions we are trying to fill,” he said.

“It is a very sorry state that the India’s top national bank are putting such low entry barriers at the era of digitalisation where all aspects like customer experience and engagement and business operations are going to see a radical change… The key to the financial sector growth lies in analyzing the data and using it for better customer management and rightful selling,” Mishra said.

According to SBI’s Kumar, the selection criteria is decided by individual banks and in most government jobs, an aggregate score is what is looked at. “We don’t intend to change this for now as long as we have a negative scoring…And we do recruit specialized skilled staff when required for special functions,” Kumar said.

At a time when specialized skills are a major requirement, SBI has so far this fiscal year hired 400 people laterally and a similar number as contractual employees for such roles.moneycontrol