Retiring stalwart reflects on 40 years in the industry

If you aren’t having fun in the job you are doing, then you had better change jobs, says Paul Cameron. He says working for Better Mortgage Management for the past 11 years has been a lot of fun, but after more than 40 years in lending it has come time to hang up the boots and enjoy life in the seaside community of Maroochydore.

MPA spoke with Cameron about how he got started in the industry and what has changed during his time in the field.

How he got started in the industry

Cameron started his working life back in 1970-71 as an accountant trainee. His boss at the time was the secretary of the Tamworth Building Society, the second oldest building society in Australia.

“As the secretary, we did all the bookwork and all the commercial work and so forth.”

From the get go, Cameron found himself doing various tasks related to loans and other building society work.

“And that was pretty much the theme for most of my working life.”

After leaving the traineeship, the building society opened up a branch and he was head-hunted by the manager.

Over the years the Tamworth Building Society became the State Building Society before becoming part of St George Bank and Cameron found himself working in a variety of roles, from branch manager to head of retail credit, before taking a sea change and moving to Brisbane-based Better Mortgage Management.

From Burroughs machines to the digital age

Technology has been one of the biggest changes Cameron has seen during his time in the industry.

“We didn’t even have a computer when we first started. Everything was in ledgers and everything was pencilled and then inked.”

“We used to do credit reports early in the piece and you used to sit on the phone and you would basically get a recorded message or someone would dictate it to you.”

He recalls using a Burroughs accounting machine before PCs became commonplace; describing it as a “huge big metal monster that made a hell of a racket.”

The technology changes seen over the past four decades had implications for every working aspect of the industry, though despite this, there have been some things that haven’t changed.

“The bottom-line stuff of responsible lending and all of the other things were really always an underlying responsibility – just a lot of it has been formalised.”

Doing banking over the phone

Another big shift during Cameron’s career in lending was the amount of people who went into the branches to do their banking. He says during his time as a branch manager for St George they had 32 staff at one particular branch. Nowadays, this same branch has a team of only six.

Instrumental in setting up the bank’s ability to offer home loans over the phone, Cameron says it is amazing how quickly this trend took off in the nineties.

“I think in our first month we wrote $4 million worth of business and within 18 months we were writing over $200m worth of business per month.”

“The next big thing that came along then was alt doc loans and no doc loans, which was something that the risk departments had to grapple with.”

“I remember sitting down with Steve Weston.”

“We sat down one afternoon and came up with an alt doc loan to go to the marketplace because we were just getting beaten up by everybody else.”

“And the thing that held us up in getting it to the market was that IT used to take three to four months getting everything set up because everything was hard-coded.”

Enjoying himself in a post-work life

He says he has enjoyed the diversity of dealing with second tier lenders and brokers at Better Mortgage Management for the past 11 years.

“It’s been a good team to work with, a small team, but you know everyone in the place. “

“Everyone does a bit of everything so it’s a good environment.”

He plans to spend his retirement enjoying two games of golf a week as well as plenty of cycling and swimming.

“People keep talking about this work/life balance thing.”

“Well, if you’re working full-time, I think there is a little bit of an imbalance, so you’ve got to make the decision.”