Speaking on Mortgage Business’s Mortgage and Finance Leader podcast, the chief executive officer of Aussie Home Loans (Aussie) said that he believed the broking industry would continue to grow and “absolutely” had its best years ahead of it.
He said: “If you look at some of the challenges that we did have, just in the last 24-36 months alone, we sat here as an industry when the [banking] royal commission was going on and we’re looking at being knocked out. We were having key CEOs of big banks, including CBA, basically saying: ‘Don’t pay them trial’. It was absolutely ridiculous. The consumers weren’t saying that; the bloody banks were saying that. And it just gave us a little taste once again [that] if some of the banks want to get rid of you, they really want to get rid of you.”
Mr Symond said he believed the discussions that he and industry representatives, such as the MFAA, had held with government during the royal commission had helped “articulate and educate what mortgage brokers do without the fog of insanity that was out there”.
The Aussie CEO went on to note how resilient the industry has been, not just in persevering through the royal commission, but also through COVID, too.
"Would you want to be in any other industry at the moment?" he asked.
"I mean, really, housing, mortgages, finance in Australia, it's a very exciting place to be. And how the industry has come through COVID has been quite extraordinary. It's a real testament to the robustness of the model and the professionalism of the people within it."
He continued: “Mortgage broking is for the consumers. It’s proven that way… The repeat business for mortgage brokers and the mortgage broking industry is sky high. [It’s like] as soon as someone goes to Woolworth’s and sees all the products [that] they can buy versus going to a single product store, why would you go to the single product store again? You would go to the mortgage broker. That repeat business and that loyalty is what’s growing that 60 per cent market share, and we’ll grow in our opinion over the next five years to 70 per cent plus, which is huge.”
When asked about the evolution of the Aussie brand, Mr Symond said that the major brokerage has had to "just keep on innovating" and "keep lifting the bar higher" but had worked hard to maintain its sense of culture even when acquiring - and being acquired by - different companies.
Commenting on the brokerage's Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA) ownership, Mr Symond said: "Its a two-edge sword, with the Commonwealth Bank investment in Aussie. The good news is CBA left Aussie completely alone. The bad news is CBA left Aussie completely alone. The influences of CBA, positive or negative just weren't there," he said.
However, he noted that the bank had recognised that the brokerage was operating well under its existing structure and leadership: "I think that CBA read that writing real quick and went: 'You know what? We're here to help you... reach out to us whenever you want to, but you guys keep doing what you're doing. Thank you.' And that's where they were very smart," he said.
Looking to the future, as the brand prepares to merge with online brokerage Lendi, Mr Symond said: "With this Lendi merger... it is still very much business as usual with Aussie. It's like a house has exchanged, but it hasn't settled yet. And we'll just need to work through what that looks like moving forward and what's best for the business.
"You've got some ingredients here that could create an explosive business. You have a bricks and mortar household branded business led by very experienced people in the industry at Aussie. It's no secret, we make money. We write nearly a couple of billion dollars in settlements per month, and we're growing really well. It's an exciting business at Aussie, but maybe we are looked upon as dinosaurs... I don't know, maybe we are looked upon as a business that needs a technological injection. And that's where we look at Lendi going," he said.
"Lendi, in their stream, are number one... From a technology point of view, from a digital loan point of view, from building a better, more streamlined, efficient process for both broker and customer point of view, Lendi have invested zillions. For us to do that [would take] zillions in investment number one, and it's several years. I mean, the world passes you by.
"So, one plus one - if you do it well with Lendi and Aussie -should equal five. Whether it's one kitchen and two paddocks, we're actually designing what that looks like behind the scenes as we speak," he said.
Mr Symond concluded: "In theory, there are parts of both businesses that could dramatically help each other. And we're hoping that's the case."
You can listen to the full episode of Mortgage Business's Mortgage and Finance Leader podcast with James Symond, here:
[Related: Lendi-Aussie merger details revealed]
Annie Kane is the editor of The Adviser and Mortgage Business.
As well as writing about the Australian broking industry, the mortgage market, financial regulation, fintechs and the wider lending landscape – Annie is also the host of the Elite Broker and In Focus podcasts and The Adviser Live webcasts.