This will be Aussie John Symond’s last regular appearance on Money News after 6 years as he heads across the world to London
Introduction: John Symond
Ross Greenwood: Can I tell you that I’m a little nostalgic tonight. The reason for that, since Money News has been going, which is about six years or so, I think it must be a little over that. On a Tuesday, pretty much every Tuesday, we have had the absolute pleasure and the brain of one of the great entrepreneurs of this country. That man is John Symond. Now John Symond, as you are aware, came from a pretty tough upbringing, and during his life, he had some pretty tough times.
But the fact is, that he was the man who allowed you to have the sort of choice that you do right now, in the home lending market, because he revolutionized home lending in this nation by basically sticking it up the banks when they wouldn’t compete with each other, and basically gave you one standard line and would not change. Now things after the regulation were certainly starting to change slowly, but John Symond, with these offers, gave it a massive kick along.
So when I sit there today and say that even over the past five years in the census, despite the fact that the Australians are paying much more for houses these days, that on average, the weekly household mortgage has dropped from $1800 a month to $1755, that’s because interest rates have come down, and competition has helped hold it down right now. John Symond, right now, well, he’s having a change in his life, because the business that he set up, Aussie Home Loans, is being acquired by the Commonwealth Bank. So, as a result, he’ll spend more time away overseas, and less time in Australia, and I’m going to say, it’s great to have him on the program.
John, for six years we’ve done this my friend, and it’s coming to an end.
Interview with John Symond, Aussie Home Loans
John Symond: It’s been fantastic. Ross, I’ve enjoyed every time I’ve been on, and it’s been fine as well.
Ross Greenwood: Tell me about the state of Australia now as compared with when you set up Aussie Home Loans all the way back. Because that time they had the recession, didn’t it? The last great recession Australia saw.
John Symond: Yes, we started in February 1992, in the middle of what I believe was the worst recession this country has had since the Second World War. It was terrible. Interest rates a year now after the ’87 stock market crashed, interest rates hit 20-21%. There was no competition. It was a damn tough time for hundreds of thousands of Australians. That’s when I started Aussie Home Loans, fighting to give the average mom and dad a fair go, and what a ride it’s been, Ross. What a ride it’s been.
Compared to today, today there is more global uncertainty. In ’92 it was more domestic related issues. Today it’s more global issues. I think today the Australian economy is doing pretty well considering the overall global scene, but the uncertainties predominantly come from abroad. It’s a different world. Interest rates are the lowest in history, but there is a lot of uncertainty out there, and it’s keeping us all on our toes.
Ross Greenwood: There’s no doubt that Australians are very much more sophisticated in the way in which they acquire property these days, and the way in which they finance properties. It’s what you talked about when you set up Aussie Home Loans, there really was no competition, there was a standard variable mortgage that was pretty much what most people borrowed money with, and banks were very tight. People that had big deposits these days, of course, people can use fixed rate loans over various terms. They can use interest only loans if they wish to. They can have mortgage offset accounts to help them pay down on their loans more quickly.
It is certainly a much more sophisticated market, and Australians, even the way that they use mortgages these days, are so much more educated than what they previously were.
John Symond: Ross, there’s no country in the world that has home loans with the features and flexibilities of some of those that you just rattled off. Nowhere in the world. You go to the US, you have a 30-year fixed rate. None of this business about splitting a loan, interest only rate drop. You can’t do that. I’m very proud that the team at Aussie, we’ve been able to be at the forefront of introducing a lot of these changes. The market embraced it, others came along. There were no mortgage there were no home loans, non bank providers in 1992, let me tell you. It was a pretty lonely place Ross.
Today, it so much benefits consumers as you say. Consumers today are very knowledgeable. You’ve got the internet, social media, and all of the rest of it to help people with information. It’s really a great time for people to have acquired a home over, particularly over the last 10 years.
Ross Greenwood: You and I are one of the common features of these conversations we have had, have bemoaned the quality of Australian leadership, particularly political leadership in this country. The infight sir they go on in both political parties. It seems to lack cohesiveness, it’s very difficult to get policy through both houses of their parliament. Australia in many ways seems stuck. That has been a recurring part of their conversation over a very long period of time. Do you see a change any time soon?
John Symond: Unfortunately I don’t, Ross. The concern that we all have is that good policy can’t get through regardless of which party puts it up. It’s petty politics, it’s politicians having a go at each other, not embracing what’s best for the country. It’s so frustrating, because I don’t know what the parties are waiting for. I think sometimes, I think they’re waiting for their house to burn down before they get on and do what’s best for the country. They look at the air tax system. My gosh, it’s been busted for 30 years. Now we’re seeing desperation by just trying to squeeze the lemon in areas where there’s a little bit of juice left. But what happens when all the juice is gone?
Ross Greenwood: It’s so true. The one thing is, you pointed it out right at the outset, is you do not want to return to the dark days of a recession simply to try and get to the next phase of economic growth in Australia. I’m going to say, John, it has been a great ride. You’ve done brilliantly over a very long period of time. As I said, the one great thing is you’ve always been prepared to stand up, back your own opinion, and also put the Australian home owners first where you possibly could. We’ve always appreciated your commentaries here on a Tuesday on Money News, and we wish you very well for the future.
John Symond: Thank you Ross. I will be staying on as non executive chair of Aussie, to keep my honor and I love it. It’s a great organization, and we still got a big job to do, to go and try and improve what’s available for consumers. We’ll still try giving consumers a fair go, and continuing competition, notwithstanding that Aussie is being sold to a big bank.
Ross Greenwood: Yes. John Symond, the executive chairman, and the founder of the Aussie Home Loans group, and one of our regulars here on Money News over the past six or so years that we’ve been doing the program. John, we wish you well.
John Symond: Thank you Ross.