David Harris has logged 27 years as a banker, most of them serving companies and business owners.
But Harris, 50, said this week that only in the past seven years has he truly understood banking and business.
“I thought I knew banking,” he said. “I hadn’t learned anything.”
Harris was speaking about launching a new bank, RelianzBank, which he did seven years ago on Dec. 12.
Prior to that, he had worked as a commercial banker for some of the area’s biggest banks, including the former Bank IV, Bank of America and Commerce Bank.
The founder, chairman and CEO of the single-branch bank at 2327 N. Ridge Road said his education as banker really wasn’t complete until he learned about owning and running a bank.
He started the bank, which focuses almost exclusively on serving businesses and their owners, with $4 million in capital and half a dozen employees. Today the bank has more than 12 times that amount in assets, 13 employees and more than 200 business clients, Harris said.
His goal for the bank in the next seven years is not to reach a certain asset size or to amass a host of branches, he said. What he wants to do is advance the bank’s reputation as the go-to bank for business borrowers.
“If that is happening, everything else is taking care of itself,” Harris said.
Q. Are you today where you wanted RelianzBank to be in terms of assets and customers?
A. Today … we are a $51 million bank. I thought we’d probably be a little bit larger by now, but we do not measure our success by the size of the bank.
Q. How do you measure it?
A. The response we get from our clients on how we take care of them. That’s how I measure success.
Q. In your seven years as a bank CEO and owner, what have you learned that surprised you?
A. How hard owners of businesses have to work to make their businesses successful. Just how much effort goes into building a business. Just how much I have a newfound appreciation for business owners … that’s probably been the most surprising thing for me.
Q. Do you ever envision expanding RelianzBank’s mission to include a focus on retail banking?
A. No. Because (the business focus) is working.
Q. Knowing what you do today in terms of starting and running a bank, is there anything you would have done differently?
A. I would have done it sooner. Why? Because I am having the time of my life. To me being part of starting a business, running a business … it’s the part of my job I love.