A Postmaster view: How important is it to balance your cash?

A Postmaster view: How important is it to balance your cash?

Since this Branch Focus, we’ve had a few questions about how to balance your cash correctly. We spoke with two Postmasters, Paulesh and Peter about their advice on balancing their cash, completing their cash declarations and how this helps them run their branches.

Paulesh used to work in Banking and now runs a couple of village branches and a mobile branch in Hampshire.

Peter has been Postmaster of Coal Clough Lane branch in Burnley for 36 years.

How do you do your daily cash declarations? 

Paulesh uses a controls spreadsheet to keep track, he said “it has 4 columns with each day, denominations, what is in the safe, till and in progress. We use this to declare the end of day position. I also make sure I train my team to take their time to process things accurately.”

Peter does two cash decs a day; one for the counter (during the last hour) and one for his safe, and “I take a variance from those at the end of each day. I do stock weekly and make sure it’s correct. This way I know exactly where the office is at the end of each night and as a result, I don’t have a lot of discrepancies”.  

How does it help you run your branch? 

Peter said: “The benefits to me are that I know exactly where the accounts are at any one time, if there is an audit, I am confident they will match my accounts. On my balancing day, I shut at 6pm and can shut everything down at 6.10pm and have completed all the reports – it’s quick and easy.

If I do my cash decs each day and there is a discrepancy I know where to find it, at the end of the month you wouldn’t know where to start looking.”

Paulesh runs his branch the same and added “You wouldn’t know what day or time to even start looking at and it would frazzle me. You can then identify and isolate where things have happened.”

What top tips can you share with fellow Postmasters? 

We were given all these tips from our trainer. We use these to train our staff and they do things in the same way I do – so we have an audit trail to identify any issues. 

Routine and consistency make it a lot easier. When you do your REMs, do it consistently – it’s much easier to manage your own cash planning if you haven’t let it add up to a huge amount. I wait to send cash back once I have balanced to make sure it is accurate.

The culture and how you run your branch and with your staff is key, creating the culture of ‘it’s okay to make mistakes’. We then work together to find where things have happened and fix them.

I have a CCTV system over the counter that shows what the staff are taking and the Horizon terminal transaction – if there is ever an issue, we can compare against the transaction log. It’s valuable to me as well as my staff so they know they have back up as well if a customer challenges.  

I’ve taught my staff how to count out the cash, moving from hand to hand, small control mechanisms like this really help. And I have the back-up of being able to check back on my CCTV.

What have you learnt in your vast experience as a Postmaster with regards to balancing? 

Peter reminded us of the importance of balancing, and explained a recent example where he had a customer who came into branch. The customer thought he’d been short-changed by £50 the day before. And because the branch had balanced, Peter could be confident that his cash balanced correctly and explained that to the customer. A few hours later the customer popped back to apologise and to say he had found the money. As Peter had balanced, he was confident that it was right and his cash balanced.

Paulesh said “I know we all make mistakes, so if anyone in my team does make any mistake, I explain that if they had done it this way this would have stopped that from happening. We can all learn from our mistakes then.”

Paulesh adds that “the other thing is not to rush, there might be a queue, but that customer in front of you at that time is your focus. That helps my team focus on what they are doing for that customer and that transaction.”

We both empower our staff to take the responsibility and because of that they feel comfortable if there is a discrepancy, they take ownership of it, and it gives them the comfort there is no question raised against their integrity and we go through it and identify it together.

What could we do more to help? 

Paulesh reminded us how important training is for Postmasters as well as help to understand transaction logs e.g foreign currency transactions. He uses the training available on Horizon Help to make sure all his branch team are confident. 

More information is available on Horizon Help:

  • F7 Horizon Help
  • F10 Back Office
  • F2 Branch Trading - Balancing and despatch of documents

Or you can email the training team at PostmasterTraining@postoffice.co.uk. The good news is that the training team are looking at the training and support available. 

He added that “when I report an issue to Branch Support Centre, I get a reference number, but when it goes to level 2 and 3, there doesn’t seem to be a regular follow up on that specific issue. Is there a communication that could tell me what the follow up is?”

The Service & Support Optimisation team are going to take that one away and see how we can improve that handover process from each team.

Peter added that “I’m a big fan of Horizon, it is so easier that the old version we had before in the early days. My final advice to other Postmasters is to remember that it might seem an obvious thing to say but routine is so important.  You have to do everything the same all the time.”

Thank you to Peter and Paulesh for their time and sharing their advice. More details about cash declarations can be found in Branch Focus here.