After the First World War, the banking sector had to become more efficient in order to control its labour costs. In the 1920s, office equipment revolutionised life in offices. The Comptoir National d’Escompte de Paris was one of the first banks to integrate new data processing techniques. At the time, office equipment operators performed an essential job that no longer exists.
Innovation in the making
In the early twentieth century, banking operations involved dealing with numerous printed documents. An increasing number of operations had to be processed because there were more and more customer accounts. Accounting machines were developed and the punch-card machines, created for the American census of 1890, arrived on the French market in the 1920s. The Comptoir National d’Escompte de Paris (CNEP) was one of the country’s first banks to adopt these new data processing techniques. In 1926, it invested 2.6 billion francs to acquire 90 accounting machines. These changes led to the creation of a new type of job in banking – office equipment operators.
Technicians became all the more essential due to fact that mechanisation was growing. In the mid-1930s, all CNEP branches in Paris and the provinces were equipped with accounting machines, punch-card machines, tabulators and card sorters. Specific know-how was required to use them. Therefore, machine manufacturers provided training to teams who would work in office equipment workshops.
Office equipment operators had to constantly pay attention to what they were doing to avoid errors; they had to be observant and resilient because handling the heavy drawers of card indexes could be tiring. In the 1950s, office equipment was in its heyday and the profession of office equipment operator was taught in secondary schools and technical high schools. With the arrival of computers in the 1960s, the profession gradually disappeared and new banking professions developed.