The annual Gold Harold Awards, in Sydney, are given to honor individuals with on-going philanthropic interests in children’s causes and charities. The events are hosted by Life Education, the largest non-government provider of health education to children and young people in Australia. It recognizes and honors unique individuals and organizations who have contributed in a meaningful way to the healthy development of Australia’s children. And you guessed it, a Lebanese has won this award as well.
Born to Lebanese parents on 17 August 1947 in Crookwell, New South Wales, John Joseph Symond was raised in Sydney. He was one of seven children and the son of Lebanese immigrant fruit-shop owners. He regularly helped at his parents’ shop before and after school. He spent most of his time between Brisbane, where his mother’s family lived, and Sydney, near his father’s relatives.
Symond attended eleven different schools, including St Patrick’s College, Strathfield, St Laurence’s College, South Brisbane and Homebush Boys High School where he matriculated in 1965. After leaving school, Symond studied law and joined a firm in Bankstown where he learned conveyancing and specialized in property and finance.
By the late 1980s, he had created a boutique financial services company, Mortgage Acceptance Corporation (MAC), that specialized in finding and providing commercial and investment loans to investors.
One of Australia’s first mortgage brokers, he eventually undertook a joint venture with a subsidiary of State Bank of South Australia, Beneficial Finance. When State Bank of South Australia went broke in the 1980s, he came very close to bankruptcy.
It was this negative experience with a bank that formed the basis of his philosophy: offering better deals and better customer service to everyday Australians. Supported by a mere $10,000 loan from his older brother Michael, he founded Aussie Home Loans in February 1992.
Symond was widely credited with bringing competition to the Australian home lending industry and was the first disruptor to the banks’ oligopoly of the Australian home loan market.
The company was unique in its approach to home loans, offering 24 hours a day service and loans far cheaper than those offered by banks. In 1994, Aussie Home Loans introduced the securitization of home loans, allowing it to offer loans upwards of 3% cheaper than its competitors.
In 2002, it diversified to become a mortgage broker – offering bank and non-bank products. The company rapidly grew as consumers became aware of its products and that of other non-banks and the competition heated up.
In August 2008 the Commonwealth Bank acquired a 33% stake in Symond’s company, which went on to acquire Wizard Home Loans in February 2009 and National Mortgage Brokers (nMB) in 2012.
The Commonwealth Bank increased its investment in Aussie from 33 percent to 80% in May 2013, then to 100% in August 2017. Symond remains the Chairman of Aussie with his nephew James Symond, the Chief Executive Officer.
Symond has been married to Amber McDonald since February 2016. He built a palatial home called Wingadal in the Sydney suburb of Point Piper that is now estimated to be worth over $100 million. He put it on the market in 2016 but withdrew it two months later in 2017.
As of 2019, The Australian Financial Review assessed Symond’s net worth as A$638 million, as published in its Rich List 2019. He has been awarded several times throughout his lifetime, including the Australian Father of the Year in 2012, an Australian award to honor and showcase a fine example of Australian fatherhood.
Inaugurated in 1957, the Australian Father of the Year has been awarded annually to high-profile, famous fathers, from prime ministers and politicians to sportsmen, business leaders, entertainers, and musicians, acknowledging the support, guidance, and love they show to Australian children.