BANK BOSS: Gary Kelly, back into banking in Warwick.
BANK BOSS: Gary Kelly, back into banking in Warwick. Jonno Colfs

Banking, bullets and balance

AFTER a minor heart attack in 2014 forced Gary Kelly to re-evaluate his priorities, he turned his attention to his family.

Three years on Mr Kelly has returned to work in the field he's spent most of his life in, taking up the role of bank manager at Warwick's Suncorp branch.

"I had missed banking and I'm excited to come back to it," Mr Kelly said.

"It's going to be a great time over the next few years, with so much economic growth coming to Warwick.

"I'm looking forward to reigniting banking relationships and meeting new people and working together with the great team here at Suncorp."

Born in Warwick to Jim and Shirley Kelly, and one of four boys including older brother and Southern Downs councillor Rod, Mr Kelly attended St Mary's and Christian Brothers College before heading to Warwick High for Year 11 and 12.

"Dad worked at the Amaco service station and depot, where Eastside Hire is now, and from about the age of 14 I'd work there after school," Mr Kelly said.

"That's where I picked up some valuable people skills."

Mr Kelly then landed a job with the Bank of New South Wales in Millmerran after finishing school.

"It was the days where everyone had a job," he said.

"I had an aptitude test on Monday, got the job on Wednesday and started the next Monday.

"I had an old FC Holden and Dad gave me $50 and slapped me on the back and said 'See you later'."

Mr Kelly said he stayed in a boarding house for a while in Milmerran.

"The father of the house would sit down to dinner with a big juicy t-bone steak every night, while everyone else had corned beef," he said.

"And he'd always change the channel over to the weather just as Blankety Blanks was getting really funny."

From there Mr Kelly did a stint in St George and then Brisbane, working as a relief staffer all over Queensland.

"I got my first management role at 28 years old," he said.

"I was the senior relief officer for north Queensland and worked all over, Tully, Innisfail, Cairns etc.

"I had this great town-house in Cairns that overlooked a pool, it felt like I was living in a resort.

"I absolutely loved it up there."

Later Mr Kelly became the manager of the Westpac Bank in Townsville and then moved to Alpha on the mid north coast and then finally to Lowood in Brisbane.

"It was there I had my first armed robbery," he said.

"I was in my office with some people and heard a commotion and knew what was going on.

"We were trained not to intervene if not directly involved but all my staff were out in the branch and my protective instincts kicked in."

Mr Kelly said he walked out of his office and saw three bandits all wearing balaclavas, two men and a women.

"That woman was mean, she was the worst of the three," he said.

"She fired a shot over my head shattering a glass panel, and then fired two more.

"Everyone else was on the floor, but I stayed standing up so I could see my staff.

"One came over to me and put his gun against my head and told me to get down."

Mr Kelly said the bandit threatened to kill a customer if he didn't let them behind the counter.

"We're trained to not let anyone behind the counter, but their bullets were real so that helped me make the decision," he said.

"They got away soon after with a fairly small amount of money.

Mr Kelly said arrests over the robbery were made but nobody was ever convicted.

"They couldn't be positively identified due to the balaclavas," he said.

"It was quite an experience."

In 1994 Mr Kelly returned home to Warwick and became manager of the Warwick and Killarney Westpac branches.

"In 2000 they wanted to transfer me, but I'm home here," he said.

"I was married and had four wonderful step-daughters and didn't want to leave.

"So I left Westpac and bought the lease for the Warwick Motor Inn and operated that while working at the Warwick Credit Union and Barlows Accountants."

Mr Kelly said it was full on juggling everything.

"I did some very long hours," he said.

"But I gained some great insight and exposure into the tourism industry in the region.

"I learned how important the Granite Belt is and how crucial our events are to our economy."

In 2007 the Bank of Queensland came to Warwick and Mr Kelly was asked to head up the branch.

He remained there until 2014 when a health scare forced him to re-prioritise and spend more time with family.

"I realised I had a bad work/family balance," he said.

"I did some consulting, some volunteering and took my kids on the holidays they'd never had before."

Today Mr Kelly is a part-time single dad to Holly, Melody and Jesse and is settling quickly back into life in the banking game that he loves so much.

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