Aussie Home Loans founder John
Symonds, the bank-bashing battler turned Rich Lister, has found himself
on the receiving end of one of his own “David vs Goliath” PR battles in
the form of a long-time staffer trying to poach his staff.

John
Kolenda spent ten years at Aussie and was earning an estimated $2
million a year when he quit last June. Aussie contends that he signed a
12-month exclusion clause that prevented him from competing with the
giant mortgage originator or poaching staff until June this year.

Whilst
the nature of the exclusion might be in dispute, it certainly appears
that Kolenda has been poaching with his ears pinned back. This is how
banking ezineThe Sheetcharacterised today’s coverage of yesterday’s evidence:

The commissions that Aussie Home Loans pay its
sales force is low relative to the market, based on reports of evidence
in a case in Supreme Court of New South Wales. In the case, Aussie is
seeking to restrain its former general manager of distribution, John
Kolenda, and his new mortgage broking company, Xinc Services, from
hiring Aussie staff.

The Financial Reviewreports
that the lawyers for Xinc told the court that poor pay and conditions
had led Aussie workers to look for alternative employment and a better
deal. One mortgage adviser with Aussie, Justin Nunn, is quoted as
saying about “100 good people” had left the company. There’s another
version of this evidence in The Australian.

Anyone who runs a service company knows that people are
your most important assets. Whilst you can’t stop people from leaving,
you can pay them well not to compete for a certain period.

Aussie
clearly didn’t pay Kolenda enough, because he even apparently set up an
office opposite Aussie’s Collins Street office in Melbourne and invited
staff across the road to listen to his sales pitch about how much
better life would be working for his new outfit.

Whilst Aussie
didn’t want to give its new competitor the oxygen and publicity it’s
now receiving, the poaching reached such a level that it finally
decided to take legal action, even though Kolenda will be free to poach
to his heart’s content when the exclusion clause expires in June.

You
can’t feel too sorry for Symonds who is worth an estimated $400 million
and is now in bed with the Goliath-like bank cartel pushing their
loans, as well as his own. A new competitor that returned to Aussie’s
roots of being a genuine minnow beating up on the big banks might not
be such a bad thing.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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