FROM SHILLINGS TO EFTPOS: David Harris is retiring after 32 years as the manager of the Lismore St George Bank.
FROM SHILLINGS TO EFTPOS: David Harris is retiring after 32 years as the manager of the Lismore St George Bank. Mireille Merlet-Shaw

Banker of the old style

IT'S been a distinguished career, but not without moments of goofiness for retiring St George Bank Lismore branch manager.

In his 32 years, David Harris regularly donned a St George dragon outfit, turning up at school fetes and festivals dressed in disguise.

"I'd often help out managers of other branches. I remember wearing it at the Grafton Jacaranda Festival. It was November and so hot in the suit. Another time, I was encouraged to get on a trampoline in the suit," he laughed.

The 65-year-old will retire at the end of this week and is reminiscing about the changes he's seen since entering the banking industry within a fortnight of finishing high school in 1964.

"I was a 19-year-old note issue teller during the decimal currency changeover in February 1966 and saw it pass from pounds and shillings to dollars and cents."

After a short stint working for branches in Sydney, Mr Harris jumped at the opportunity to transfer to Lismore. "I had this urge to see my sons grow up in the area. I went to primary school in North Lismore and then to Richmond River High School. My mother, Betty Harris, had a beauty salon a few doors down from this branch in Woodlark St."

A self-described old-fashioned bank manager, Mr Harris takes pride in the relationships he's built with customers and businesses.

"It comes down to excellence in customer service. My door is always open. I've always tried to make customers feel at home. I'd visit their homes if they had difficulty getting in here or drop documents that needed signing to their homes."

He has mixed feelings about the decline in face-to-face customer service with the rise in ATMs, EFTPOS and online banking.

"The only time someone needs to come into a branch is to deposit a cheque, or if it's a business, to bank cash. In 1992 we had 11 staff, now we have six."

Former Grafton St George branch manager, Ivan Winters, said Mr Harris's easy manner attracts people.

"He's easygoing and is extremely professional - in recent years he has set national achievement levels in lending," said Mr Winters.

"He's loved by everyone - he's like the unofficial mayor of Lismore."



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