A day in the life of James Symond

“I don’t know how many people would be interested in that,” laughs James Symond, when asked what a typical day at the office holds.

But as an executive director of Aussie, a day in Symond’s life is no ordinary day like most people know. From meetings with key industry players and Aussie stakeholders, to getting out on the streets talking to franchisees, taking 75 to 100 phone calls and attending up to 10 meetings daily – not to mention the industry functions and corporate events he attends three or four nights a week – he’s no stranger to working at the coalface.

In his daily routine, Symond, in his own words, has never been an early starter. “I get up at about 6.30am, and I typically start my day at around 7.30 – I only wish I could say I get up and go for a run for the next hour in [Sydney’s] Centennial Park,” he laughs.

So what does get him out of bed in the morning? “My bank balance, or lack of it, [and] my debt, which is far too high, usually inspires me to get up in the morning and perform!” he says.

Being on the ball is crucial in his position. “I sit down for the first hour before I get changed and I try to keep up-to-date with the world – what happened with the markets in the US the night before, what’s happening in Australia and understand what’s going to be the topic of discussion for the day.”

The office is located conveniently just a four-minute drive away from Symond’s home. While the spoils of success are obvious – a harbour-side apartment in Sydney’s Walsh Bay, with the Opera House a stone’s throw away – Symond has his work cut out with the majority of his day mapped out weeks in advance.

Symond says the real key is his executive assistant, Sarah, who has been with him for 15 years. “It’s an unusual circumstance and we’re both mad! She really is the gatekeeper of how my day looks and that’s flexible by about 20 per cent.”

Crunching the numbers

His morning is spent dealing with the business analytics, covering what loans were lodged, what insurance products sold and how many salespeople were recruited the previous day. It’s no small task when you consider Aussie’s loan portfolio is worth more than $37 billion, with more than 250,000 customers being serviced 24/7, with more than 850 mortgager brokers on the book

“Every single day we get numbers on our business, and those numbers are key in how we are driving the business and I need to be on top of them at all times,” he says.

Symond’s life is spent, he says, on the phone. “So from those numbers, I start making calls. Even now I’m talking to you on a wireless headset, and I walk around the office on the headset.”

Lunch time is a whirl of corporate lunches around Australia on any given day, as well as lunches with team members, motivating or congratulating a franchisee or a salesperson, or having lunch with a business partner.

Making the most of his time is high on Symond’s agenda. “What I try to do is not waste time, and have lunches with external corporates as best as I can and use that time for a meeting as well.”

Consuming passion

Afternoons are when Symond gets out of the office. “For me I’m an afternoon and evening person, so I start getting my straps after lunch. I get out to franchise offices – living my life in my office just doesn’t work.”

And while Symond may finish up at the office at 6pm – “which is unlikely” – his work is far from over. “I’ll go home and spend two, three, four, five hours on phones in my office, so it never really finishes up. Most nights, in fact, I have corporate functions, so I don’t get home until 11 or 12 at night.”

He says he’s a “very bad example” of work-life balance.

“I love getting out on the harbour and watching movies and all that sort of stuff, but it’s one thing I need to work harder on and is probably the reason why I’m still unmarried!”

Symond, it seems, is married to the job. “I’ve been here since day one, since I was 19 years old – that becomes your hobby, that becomes your inspiration.”

He takes his leadership role very seriously. “My role is one where communication, contact, integrity and leadership are absolutely key. We have a lot of great people, and I learn just as much from them as hopefully they learn from me.”

And after a long, challenging day at the office what is Symond’s first thought? “I probably shouldn’t say this, but it’s how fast I can grab a cigar, sit on my balcony, get on the computer and have a drink.”

A vice or two may be understandable for a person of his stature, but his motivation in the industry is a little more customary. “During these times, everyone needs to be part of change, driving change and accepting of change or they will fall victim of it.”

Overseeing the industry’s evolution and helping to steer its growth is high on the radar for Symond on a day-to-day basis. “Nothing replaces hard work. You’ve got to be able to help those around you and help them get to where they want to go, to ensure you can get to where you want to go.” 


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