From Accounting to CEO – Susan Mitchell’s Road to REA
The 18e From October 2021, the REA group announced a major integration step for its brokerage business with Mortgage Choice and Smartline in order to operate under a single brand. The combined business will retain the Mortgage Choice brand, resulting in the phasing out of the Smartline brand after a transition period.
Janelle Hopkins, CFO of REA Group and General Manager of Financial Services, said that after doing extensive research on the brand with consumers and brokers, it was obvious that moving forward with the Mortgage Choice brand. would be the best position for the company for future success. The management of the company is Susan Mitchell (CEO, broker), appointed to this position in July 2021.
Susan Mitchell began her career in financial services in the accounting department of a bank, spending summers away from college answering customer calls and complaints. It was her job to figure out how to help clients and she immediately found it fascinating, knowing that it was the industry for her.
After college, Susan became an accountant, worked in the financial industry, and loved it. “Something about this just grabbed me. Susan knew that was where she wanted to be.
And so began a career that took her from Dallas, Texas, New York, London and eventually Sydney, Australia.
Fast forward to 2009, Susan joined Mortgage Choice as CFO, becoming CEO in 2018, before Mortgage Choice joined the REA family in 2021 and was named CEO of the brokerage business in July.
When asked to use just one sentence to describe what her new REA team does, she said “we help small businesses reach their potential and we help consumers buy their homes.”
Discussing her team’s main focus at the moment and how it fits into the larger picture of REA, she explains that it has to be integration. “We have such an important project ahead of us and we can’t deliver value until we’re done, the sooner we prepare and work on it, the sooner we can add value.”
When asked as a leader, how does she keep people motivated to seek innovation, Susan said, “I think you have to get to know them individually (focusing on your own team) and on what motivates those people, then harness them and find out how to keep individuals motivated because we are all unique.
It is important to make your people work well together and to motivate them as a team, giving them a sense of belonging and group accomplishment. It’s so powerful when a group works together this way, and if you can get them to hum and really get into a unified approach, then they want to be a part of it. ‘
Susan has had a few “super bosses” who have greatly influenced and helped shape her career. “They were amazing as leaders and mentors; they really showed me the importance of spending time with your people. She reflects on some of the qualities of influential people that showed her the way early in her career. “What I liked about them was their patience and their ability to stay calm and recognize that if something didn’t work, we would try again.”
Susan found this approach inspiring and since then has taken these learnings with her wherever she goes. “I wouldn’t say that you never completely feel like you’ve reached this level, but I still aspire to it. ”
Susan had a few pivotal moments in her career, first when she moved to New York City, leaving all of her friends in Dallas. It was the first time she had taken a chance, grateful that everything would be fine if she failed. “I knew I could always come home if things didn’t work out, so I decided to really give it my all.
Her second career big moment came when she worked for an investment bank in London. “It was a very complicated start-up, which made it quite difficult. I got to know my first super boss during this time. It was quite difficult, but the people were brilliant and were constantly solving problems. It opened my eyes to a whole new world. Susan remembers being excited about having the power to build and create from scratch, as well as being amazed by their intelligence, kindness and hard work. “I had never met a group of people like this before. Start-ups are such a bonding experience having the opportunity to build so much together. ‘
Susan later stopped working for three years, staying home with her children, and did not necessarily plan to return to work. “It was a whole different world of school activities and commitments; one that I knew little before. She reflects on the amazing women she met who were incredibly motivated to support their children and their communities. Susan says it’s taught her that there are a lot of amazing people in the world who have an impact in anything they are passionate about or engaged in. It made her realize how engrossed she was in her own career. “You are obviously proud of what you have accomplished in your career, but there are also different paths to take, and I got to see a whole different perspective of what it means to support your family and your children.”
When the Mitchell’s moved to Australia, Susan returned to work, starting over and knowing no one. “I realized I had it a lot easier than many when I started my career, working with a large global accounting firm and being able to work in New York and London if I asked. ”
The proudest moments
When asked what she was most proud of, Susan smiled and replied “my children, I am extremely proud of them”. There were also times in her career when she had to make some very difficult decisions. Susan spoke of one, in particular, that was a real moral dilemma as she was challenged to stand up to a bully. Although this unfortunately resulted in the loss of her job for Susan, she was proud of her actions. “Even though it was risky and knowing my family was counting on me, a line had been crossed. I knew doing the right thing was the most important thing in this situation, as hard as it was to do.
Susan’s advice to someone new to her field today: “Your first and second careers are different and that feeling is important as you grow. Each stage requires a different set of skills, you need to find out what you need to equip yourself for each next stage. Also know that you cannot be perfect in everything. You just need to choose what’s important and deliver. Don’t panic if you make a mistake. Fix it.
To look forward
Susan shared her thoughts on what the Australian financial services market will look like in the coming years. “With regard to home loans; I think the digital players will get bigger and the big players will get more digital. This is one of the reasons I am so excited that REA is bringing together Smartline and Mortgage Choice into one company to provide invaluable expertise. ‘
Susan believes brokers will take control of the market share, going from 60% to 65 to 70% over time. The more digital capabilities the company has to gain market share, the better. “The future is bright for brokers with digital skills. ”
Sharing what excites her the most about her job right now, Susan said, “We work really hard to provide an exceptional customer experience for our consumers and continue to see success from our brokers. Glad to see it all really buzz and start to expand, and then we’ll be fine-tuning as we go. It’s a really exciting process, I really enjoy building something amazing with our teams. ‘
The next exciting chapter of Susan awaits.