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Spearheading through adversity


“We know – and so much research supports this – people can be much more resilient and better able to deal with difficult times when they feel they have security and support.”– Simone Tilley


Simone Tilley, Head of Retail Broker Distribution at ANZ and Mortgage Global 100 winner for a second consecutive year.

Simone Tilley sees a curious fact about business life: people don’t necessarily remember what you’ve done - but they do remember how you went about it.


This could well apply in all aspects of life but it’s something  that’s served her well throughout her career. Simone, who is Head of Retail Broker Distribution, the area at ANZ responsible for about 60 per cent of the company’s Australian mortgage flows, has for the second consecutive year been named one of Mortgage Professional Australia’s Mortgage Global 100 – an accolade which recognises leading mortgage influencers making a positive difference and helping drive change across the sector in the U.S., Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the UK.


Leadership matters


For Simone, this recognition is a reminder about the value of contributing to industry leadership matters at critical periods in time.


“It’s been an incredibly gruelling year – so to be among these names globally is an unquestionable privilege for us all,” says Simone. “We are all championing key issues that continue to carry the industry into a new era – it’s also not just what we do, but how we go about it. Our careful planning of initiatives through to fruition, as well as considering the throw and the catch.”


“I’m really trying to ensure we’re actively part of the greater good,” says Simone. “I am the face of the business from a broker perspective, however we could only have achieved what we did by working together – when our oars are synchronised it’s incredibly powerful.” 


Enduring relationships


With a career spanning more than 20 years and 10 of those with ANZ, Simone doesn’t view her career highlights as episodic.


“The accolades aren’t really front of mind for me,” she explains. “What is really a highlight is the enduring relationships - not only within the bank but, importantly, with customers and others within the industry.


“The key is being authentic and acting with integrity over an extended period of time.”


No mountain too high


When venturing into the subject of role models, Simone reflects on one of her most significant role models: “It might sound sort of nepotistic but my mother was an entrepreneur and the first woman in Australia to start her own label adhesive flexographic business.”


“She was fearless – no mountain was ever too high. We outgrew seven factories in 17 years,” remembers Simone. “She was a continuous learner, read widely and surrounded herself with exceptional people. I learnt a lot at an early age from the courage and determination she exhibited.”


Inheriting her mother’s entrepreneurial spirit, as a young adult Simone ran her family’s manufacturing business and started her own packaging business which was later sold to a multi-national organisation. 


“As a result of going on a trip to Silicon Valley, led by Pip Marlow, hosted by Trans-Tasman Business Circle, we have formed a group we refer to as ‘Silicon Sisters’ and WhatsApp each other nearly every day.  It is unquestionably valuable having a strong network external to your role,” Simone says. 


Standing out from the crowd


Today she is the only female broking head at one of Australia’s big four banks. “It’s certainly one way to stand out from the crowd,” she says - and something she’s quite familiar with.


“I began my journey in Agribusiness lending money to farmers,” she says.


“It was a very male-dominated domain at the time. In many cases I was the first female bank manager the farmers had had in their lives.”


Reflections on the year like no other


If Simone were to wrap up 2020 in one word, it would be perspective.


“I was one of those people doing pirouettes at the airport nearly every week and I was also one of the last people to get elective surgery in March before we went into COVID-19 restrictions,” she says. “I think what it actually did was make us all a little bit more discerning around what constitutes value.”


“A critical factor as the seriousness of the pandemic emerged, was providing my team with a solid support framework, so that support mechanism permeated widely throughout our national business. Focussing on that early helped improved resilience at scale,” she says.


For Simone the past year has highlighted the importance of being visible and adaptable. “We know – and so much research supports this – people can be much more resilient and better able to deal with difficult times when they feel they have security and support.”


She also went onto mention providing shared clarity to her team together with the external market was also critical. “My external market consists of 17,000 mortgage brokers, Aggregators - many which are listed on the ASX, and various industry groups.  It can be a demanding cohort. Having the courage to be visible and communicate regularly, despite various pressures is something the market has recognised ANZ for doing,” Simone says.


Living in a digital world


Simone was quick to mention the importance of amplifying ANZ’s digitisation and automation agenda.  “The key for 2021 will be continuing the work that has commenced and ensuring all stakeholders involved continually unlock business value.”


“As well as being incredibly visible and communicating openly during adversity, educating the market around digital self-service tools are going to continue to be critical,” she says. “Customers have seen the significant value of transacting digitally and we are really focusing on ensuring we deliver a first class education program, and improving the broker-customer on boarding experience, so we can continue to drive a strong affinity with the ANZ brand.”


Simone’s words of advice for the year ahead


“Never let anyone else define you.”


“Growth and comfort never co-exist.”


“And work on something that matters.”


About Simone


As well as leading the retail broker business at ANZ, Simone is the chair of the Combined Industry Forum and direct liaison into the Australian Federal Treasury and Australian Securities and Investment Commission on behalf of the industry, is a director of the LIXI board (a data standard organisation) and is Group Chair of ANZ Sustainable Households.



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