Following the news that Aussie CEO James Symond is to step down from his role, the industry has been reflecting on the Symond family’s contribution to mortgage broking in Australia.
On Tuesday afternoon (27 April), it was announced that the chief executive officer of the major brokerage, James Symond, would be stepping down from his role following the imminent merger of Aussie and Lendi. There has not yet been confirmation of when his final day at the company will be.
The move will mark the first time in Aussie’s 29-year history that a member of the Symond family has not held a position at the company.
David Hyman, co-founder and CEO of Lendi, told The Adviser: “The Symond family has built a great business over the last three decades and we wish James the best of luck in his new endeavours.”
The company was founded in 1992 by former executive director Nick Paten and former CEO and chairman, John Symond (James Symond’s uncle, who stepped down from the company in November 2020), initially commencing as a non-bank lender to challenge the incumbent banks before securitising its own loans in 1994.
For many Australians, the 1995 advert featuring John Symond (or “Aussie John”) put the brand on the map.
The 30-second advert had no gimmicks, distractions or fancy graphics, just “Aussie John” talking directly to the viewer in front of the Australian flag, challenging the viewer to “give it a go”, ring their bank and “demand a better deal” on their home loan. If they “don’t come to the party”, he said, just ring Aussie Home Loans.
The advert signed off with the catchphrase: “At Aussie, We’ll Save You”, which made the brand a household name, ingraining the catchphrase in the population’s psyche and turning Aussie John a trusted figurehead.
Speaking in December last year, Mr Hyman noted: “I think everyone would appreciate that when John Symond set [Aussie] up 30 years ago – and together with James [Symond] more recently – they built an iconic brand in the space. They were the original disrupter. I can still remember seeing John on TV saying: ‘We’ll save you’ and taking it to the banks.
“Clearly, today, [Aussie is] one of the most recognisable brands in financial services. They have a significant level of distribution, their brand recall is in the 80 per cent range, and they have a great offering to brokers.”
Speaking to The Adviser about the impact of that advert on the Australian populace, Peter White, managing director of the Finance Brokers Association of Australia (FBAA), commented: “It was a brave and bold move. I was with RAMS at that time (in the early ’90s) and the banks were not the friendliest towards Aussie, who were loudly touting ‘We’ll Save Ya’... The banks were trying to hush them up and see them not succeed.
“But with great persistence and perseverance and not without its challenges, the brand pushed forward and won the day,” he noted.
The brand moved to become a brokerage in the early ‘90s, initially with mobile brokers, before acquiring the Wizard brokerage and its broking franchise in 2009.
It has since become one of the largest major brokerages in Australia, having a national distribution network of over 220 stores, over 1,000 brokers and 300 team members, and last month recorded $3 billion in loan lodgements.
While the Symond family started the company as a non-bank lender, James Symond has particularly been an active advocate for the broker channel over the years.
The CEO of the MFAA, Mike Felton, commented: “James Symond is a ‘giant’ of the mortgage broking industry who has made an immense contribution to the industry as we know it.
“James has dedicated his whole working life to building the successful Aussie business and to passionately and effectively advocating for the entire mortgage broking industry throughout the many challenges it has faced.
“He has also been an advocate for lifting professional standards, determined to see the industry improve and thrive. He has played a key role in the history of the MFAA, becoming a member in 1992 and National President in 2007. James guided the MFAA through the GFC and was inducted as an MFAA Life Member in 2018 in recognition of his outstanding service to the industry and the association.”
Mr Felton continued: “Our industry owes James a great debt of gratitude and although we will miss his day-to-day presence, I have no doubt that his influence and legacy will continue to be felt for many years to come.”
Similarly, the FBAA’s MD stated: “It’s been a great privilege of mine to have known James Symond since Aussie began, and although we weren’t always on the same side of the equation, it was with the greatest mutual respect I watched Aussie grow and shape the marketplace.”
Mr White noted that as James Symond went on to “take over the mantel in running the business” in 2015, he “continued to drive it forward and to be an even greater success to what John started”.
“James gave the business his own style and personality without compromising its roots,” Mr White said, also noting the philanthropic aspect of Mr Symond’s work.
“While running this juggernaut, James and Aussie were quietly, but significantly, supporting people and charities doing some really great things without taking the limelight for it,” he said.
Mr White also acknowledged the contribution Mr Symond made in championing the broker cause during the Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry behind the scenes, stating that it was “a very profound but ‘un-public’ path in supporting our industry”.
The FBAA MD thanked the outgoing Aussie CEO for the “great things he has done for [the broking] industry, many of which we take for granted these days”, adding that his legacy “leaves a permanent place in [the] industry and society that allows brokers to do what they do today”.
“Today, Aussie is a strong retail brand to be reckoned with, with a great network of franchises and brokers diligently supporting borrowers across the country,” Mr White concluded.
Several other heads of industry also took to LinkedIn to comment on the news of Mr Symond’s impending departure, with Chris Slater, head of sales and distribution at AFG, stating: “Lifetime contribution – congratulations and all the best for the future.”
John Kolenda, the managing director of Finsure, commented on LinkedIn, stating: “A wonderful achievement by both John Symond and yourself in changing the course of history in building something that benefited all Australians for ever! Best wishes!”
Steve Sampson, the chief commercial officer at Prime Capital and former head of broker distribution at Bank of Sydney, said: “Good luck, James, and thank you for all the awesome work you have done for the industry. And, of course, personal thanks, too!”
Aussie broker Chris Antypas, franchise principal at Aussie Launceston, commented: “This is truly an end of an era. James has certainly been the ambassador of our brand and the culture.”
Some members of industry also took to The Adviser website to mark the news, with “Aaron” stating: “Thank you for everything you have done for this industry, James. You will be very missed.”
Meanwhile, “Stephen” said: “James, you have been an inspiration to Aussie and the industry.”
Find out more from James Symond the history of Aussie and what he hopes the future will hold for the brand in the recent Mortgage and Finance Leader podcast, run by our sister brand Mortgage Business:
[Related: James Symond to leave Aussie]