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Giving credit where it is due: loan and credit clerks, credit checkers and credit authorizers.

At some point in your life, you will undoubtedly apply for some form of credit in order to buy a home, automobile, furniture, appliances, or clothing. Depending on the type of credit you request, a loan or credit clerk, credit checker, or credit authorizer will review your credit history and obtain the information needed to detennine your creditworthiness.

Loan and credit clerks and credit checkers perform the background research and processing associated with the issuance of credit, including contacting applicants, credit bureaus, and other sources for information and verifying loan documents to insure completeness. Credit authorizers refer to credit records and reports to decide whether to approve a customer's credit card purchase.

Loan and Credit Clerks

Working mainly in banks and other financial institutions, loan and credit clerks are involved in either the processing or closing of a loan. Processing clerks do the background work to prepare the loan package for the underwriter, loan officer, or manager, who makes the actual loan decision. The clerk reviews the loan application, calls credit bureaus and reporting agencies for the applicant's records, and verifies all personal and financial information by contacting the applicant's employer, banks, and other financial or credit references . If the information is inaccurate, the clerk must contact the applicant for further information. Once the entire application is verified, the clerk sends it to higher level workers for approval.

Clerks involved in closing loans have similar duties, only they concentrate on verifying documents for the settlement package. These workers review the entire loan file to see that all documents are accurate and have been correctly signed and that all conditions of the loan have been met. If any forms are incomplete, the clerk retums them for completion. Once the entire closing package is ready, the clerk sends it to an attomey, who makes the loan payment arrangements.

Loan and credit clerking can be particularly stressful in the mortgage financing and banking industries because of deadlines and uncertainty caused by interest rate fluctuations. Clerks are often under pressure to contact customers and credit sources as quickly as possible so that a pending loan can be approved. In addition, clerks are especially busy just before an anticipated rise in interest rates, as consumers try to lock in the lowest possible rate.

Credit Checkers

Specific duties of credit checkers vary by type of employer In banks and other financial service firms, they call credit bureaus, verify information on a loan application, and have other responsibilities similar to those of loan and credit clerks. Both jobs are support positions, in which workers obtain and verify information to be used in making loan and credit decisions. However, credit checking may differ from clerking in employment seaings outside the financial services. A credit checker in a department store, for example, may process credit card applications, which often involves less research and information verification than loan processing. In a credit reporting agency, the worker may compile credit data and reports to be used by banks and other credit institutions. In this case, the checker is not dealing with a specific loan application, but is compiling data on an individual so that workers in lending institutions may verify the application. Despite the differences between checkers and loan and credit clerks, both operate within narrow guidelines to obtain specific credit information, so their work does not involve much decisionmaking.

Credit Authorizers

Whereas credit clerks and checkers deal with credit before it has been granted, credit authorizers enter the process after ii has been approved. These workers, found mainly in department stores, approve charges against customers' accounts. Most purchases are approved automatically by computer when the sales clerk rings up the purchase. However, when an account is past due, overextended, invalid, or shows a change of address, the computer generates an inquiry message, and the transaction is referred to a credit authorizer The authorizer, located in a central office, retrieves the customer's credit records and payment history-usually obtained from credit bureaus and reporting agencies--on a computer terminal, and quickly evaluates this information to determine whether or not the purchase should be approved. Authorizers generally have a set dollar limit on charges they can authorize, so any purchase over this amount must be referred to a supervisor In addition, any questionable purchase, such as one requiring a large credit extension, is referred to a higher authority

Credit authorizing involves sitting in front of computer terminals for long periods, and research shows that prolonged exposure to video display terminals may cause eyestrain, headaches, and miscarriages.

Earnings and Benefits

Earnings of credit workers vary widely, depending upon the occupation and experience. According to the limited data available, hourly eamings ranged from around $5 to nearly $14 an hour in 1987. Loan and credit clerks generally start at $5.75 to $7.20 an hour Credit checker trainees start at $6.50 to $8.75 an hour; those with 2 or 3 years' experience can eam between $9.60 and $11.50. Although loan and credit clerks may receive slightly lower starting salaries than credit checkers, loan and credit clerks have greater eamings potential. Clerks with 2 or more years' experience can eam salaries ranging from $9.50 to $13.50 an hour. Credit authorizers eam the least, averaging about $6 an hour

Full-time workers generally receive health insurance, vacation and sick leave, and other standard benefits. In addition, workers in retail establishments usually receive a discount on store purchases. Many credit authorizers work part time for retail stores and do not receive employer-provided benefits.

Qualifications and Advancement

No specific training is needed for entry level positions. New employees are generally trained on the job-working under the close supervision of more experienced workers until they have learned the company's credit procedures and policies well enough to work independently While the typical full-time worker in one of these positions has little or no formal training beyond high school, some credit checkers and clerks and a significant number of credit authorizers are high school and college students working part time.

Positions in these fields involve much telephone contact, so good communication skills are a necessity Basic math skills, including algebra, are needed, and courses in finance and accounting are helpful. Familiarity with tax retums is beneficial to those specifically interested in loan clerking.

Employers stress continuing education as a way to improve performance and to become eligible for more responsible positions. Specialized courses in credit are offered by banking and credit associations, public and private vocational schools, and colleges and universities.

As they demonstrate competence, these workers can advance to supervisor of a loan or credit department, loan officer, or underwriter. For advancement into management positions, employers prefer applicants with a bachelor's degree in business; a concentration in credit management is widely considered to be the most appropriate. Those entering with a degree generally start at a higher salary, receive more responsibility in each position, and advance more rapidly

Employment and Outlook

Loan and credit clerks, credit checkers, and credit authorizers held about 219,000 jobs in 1986. Almost three-fourths of all authorizers worked in wholesale and retail trade, with the greatest concentration in department stores, where people most often use credit cards. Banks and other credit agencies employed almost all loan and credit clerks and over one-half of all credit checkers, since these are the firms most involved in granting loans and credit.

Most part-time positions are for credit authorizers. Concentrated in department stores and other retail outlets, authorizers may have to work nights and weekends when the stores are open. Because of this, credit authorizing attracts many high school and college students who work when not in class and during school vacations. Additional pan-time workers are hired on a temporary basis by department stores during peak shopping seasons, such as during November and December.

Overall employment of credit checkers , loan and credit clerks, and credit authorizers is expected to increase about as fast as the average for all occupations through the year 2000 in order to meet the expanding credit needs of the economy In addition to jobs created by increased demand for these workers, many jobs will become available as workers transfer to other occupations, retire, or leave the labor force.

The most promising outlook is for loan and credit clerks, whose employment growth is expected to be faster than average for two major reasons. The personal nature of loan clerking insures that computers will not be substituted for workers. And clerks are found almost exclusively in financial institutions, which are projected to grow faster than average.

Although long-term prospects are very bright for loan and credit clerks, this occupation is very sensitive to changes in economic conditions. Job prospects for loan and credit clerks are exceptionally good during periods of declining or low interest rates. During these times, clerks are in high demand, and jobs are relatively easy to find. However, when interest rates rise or are high, fewer people take out loans and mortgages, so fewer loan and credit clerks are needed. During these periods, firms may freeze hiring or lay off workers to bring employment into line with current needs. Job prospects are particularly cyclical in the mortgage financing industry, with a pickup in the spring, a slowdown in the winter, and a rush of loan closings at the end of each month.

For credit checkers, slower than average employment growth is expected. Growth will be strongest in financial institutions, an industry experiencing relatively rapid growth due to the rising importance of savings and loan associations, credit unions, and other nonbank institutions. In addition, credit checking in these institutions generally requires more contact with customers than it does in other settings, so employment will be less affected by the use of computers. Less favorable prospects will occur in retail trade and credit bureaus due to increasing automation and declining use of individual store credit cards.

The number of jobs in credit authorizing is expected to decline, despite the significant growth expected in retail trade and in banking, the major employers of authorizers. The greater use of computers has caused a decline in demand for authorizers as credit departments consolidate and centralize and as employees work faster and more efficiently This centralization is most notable in retail establishments, where national firms are now authorizing credit charges for large geographic regions in a single office. Despite this increased productivity, prospects for authorizer jobs will be favorable due to the high turnover. Because so many authorizers are students or others who seek shortterm employment in this occupation, there is a lot of movement into and out of jobs. Many openings will arise to replace workers who retum to school full time or leave the occupation for other reasons.

Sources of Additional Information

Information about job opportunities in the field of credit, including entry level and management positions, is available from

International Credit Association Education Department Box 27357 St. Louis, MO 63141-1757.

Additional information about local job opportunities in credit authorizing, credit checking, and loan and credit clerking may be obtained from retail stores, banking institutions, and credit reporting agencies.
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Author:Fumanti, Janet
Publication:Occupational Outlook Quarterly
Date:Mar 22, 1989
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