A fast mover

Imitation may be the highest form of flattery, but industry trailblazer Anne-Marie Syme says a strong point of difference is key to survival in the industry during tough times, as is having the confidence to trust your intuition and stay one step ahead of your competitors. Advice from someone of her calibre is to be heeded: Syme redefined the way business is done in the mortgage and finance industry and today is principal at The Loans Café, executive chair of Finance & Systems Technology (FAST) and director of four other companies.

“When I started The Loans Café, others scoffed at the idea but [soon] the retail style of brokers began to pop up everywhere.” Emulated too was her flat fee model, introduced at FAST. “I always try to stay ahead of the curve in all aspects of business wherever possible.”

When asked what inspires her, Syme answers without hesitation: “Success.

“I get inspired by seeing companies I am involved with grow to be bigger, better and more profitable. I believe we, as an industry, should revere, emulate and celebrate success where possible. I get inspired when I meet people in our industry whose knowledge and skill far exceeds my own – it demonstrates I have still much to learn.”

A competitive advantage

Even though the mortgage and finance industry is traditionally male-dominated, Syme has never felt at a disadvantage. She says success comes down to confidence, not gender. “If you are a happy person and at ease with yourself, know your product and are honest in all your dealings, success will surely follow.

“Lead by example,” she encourages. “Leaders have the drive, ego, vision and ambition to see things through regardless of what obstacles come their way.”

To weather the current storm, Syme offers the following advice: “Hang in there, this too will pass. Keep your head down, do what’s necessary to keep your clients coming back to you. Choose your aggregator wisely. Seek advice from those that have been around the industry for years or engage the services of a mentor. Sometimes it takes someone outside your circle to show you a more profitable way of doing things.”

Support act

Ever humble, Syme acknowledges that she wouldn’t be where she is today without the support of her family (“Particularly when my son was on school holidays and I was glued to the various boardroom tables.”). The magnitude of Syme’s career achievements is mirrored in part by the size of her support network: she is one of eight siblings (she recently thanked them and their respective partners with a week on a private yacht off the coast of Turkey).

Her son, now 21, is also an inspiration for Syme, and also her greatest achievement. “He is the light of my life,” she says. “If I could leave any legacy, it is that I have brought up a level-headed, intelligent, fun-to-be-with and compassionate Gen Y.”

With the exception of the “Kreepy Krauly in the pool”, nothing keeps Syme awake at night. Achieving a work-life balance is something many struggle with. For Syme, though, it is a necessity she doesn’t question.

“I spend hours playing my beautiful grand piano which is really one of my greatest joys in life. Music keeps you humble. No matter how far up the career ladder you get, playing music makes you realise there is much to learn and enjoy in the world of dots on a page.”

Syme is also a keen gardener: “Such a change from the fancy world of corporate life brings you back to earth.” But it’s not just the great outdoors that keeps her occupied. When not the life of the boardroom, Syme is the life of the party. “I enjoy entertaining and have hosted many a party over the years.” And little wonder – for someone like Syme, the reasons to celebrate are many.



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