Maureen Jordan may not be in the spotlight like husband and TV/radio personality Peter Switzer, but she sits firmly at the centre of Switzer Group. With International Women’s Day upon us, it’s the perfect time to get to know the woman behind the scenes.
Q: How did you and Peter first meet and have you always worked together?
Peter and I met at University doing our undergraduate degrees. I’d been travelling for four months through Indonesia at the end of my first year at University and I contracted hepatitis due to the water. Most of my travelling companions came down with it too so I was a late starter in my second year. I’d been pretty sick and not interested in anyone or anything but hey, you can’t stand in the way of fate. There he was and many years later here he still is. I used to tell him so many times that I was leaving and he’d start singing “If you leave me, can I come too?” It was easier to stay! And no, we haven’t always worked together, though it wasn’t long before we realised that we complemented each other’s strengths and it made perfect sense (and always has) to be business partners too.
Q: Peter is renowned for his positivity – what’s your view on Australia’s economy in the year ahead?
I did three years of Economics at University as well as studying Law. I loved Economics and I was the only female in my class at UNSW in my 3rd year. Peter went on to do his Masters and started a PhD and we’ve always shared a common interest in the economy. Now, I’m going to be honest here and say that I read his column in Switzer Daily every day before it goes to be uploaded (his grammar is pretty crook, so I make a lot of changes there) and I’m so influenced by his views. Firstly, his positive take on the economy is backed by years of training, lecturing and writing so I know he’s not blindly positive – there’s a lot of substance behind that nature of his. I’m a keen property investor so I follow his views on the direction of interest rates very closely, and for the last 30 years he hasn’t let me down. I’m not a woman who’d ever take on the views of her husband because I didn’t feel confident to have my own, but I agree with him that Australia is still in a good place for the foreseeable future.
Q: What was behind your decision to start a business in publishing and financial services?
One word: children. Having a business gives you flexibility when you’re a parent. We lived in London before we had kids and that’s where the writing and the books really started. And when we returned home and I was pregnant with our first child, we realised that we could have more control of our lives if we took a risk and left full time employment. My grandfather and a number of people in my family were accountants and the first thing I did was to get accounting advice from Mani Bonjourno who was a great help to us in getting things set up. It was the early days of computing and accounting software and a friend of Peter’s came over and set us up and away we went. Opening up a financial services business came about because a nephew of mine was working as a planner for one of the banks, and he said that what caught his clients (or potential clients) interest was not what he was saying about financial products, but the fact that he was Peter Switzer’s nephew. Peter was pretty well known even back then because of his radio and TV work. And so many people started to want financial advice from him but we had no licence – so we went and got one.
Q: When did you first become interested in financial planning?
I became a financial planner because we had a planning business and I wanted to be across the things that the planners working for us were. My first interest came about through my Mum. She had seven kids and just had to have a structured way of raising us. Dad was so big hearted that he’d give away his last cent but Mum managed the finances, paid seven private school fees, had no credit cards and crashed the mortgage quickly as well on one wage. I can still see her allocating money so everything would be paid on time. They were lucky because they were both left money when my grandparents on both sides passed away, but Mum never wasted anything.
Q: What has been the hardest job you’ve ever taken?
I worked with David Koch for a short time when he had his own publishing business. The idea was that I’d do his radio show Money Talks on GB from time to time so David could have a break – he worked very hard. I love radio and producing that show and then the prospect of doing the show live myself was so appealing. I used to listen to the radio with my grandmother when I was very small. I started off doing regular short spots with David but Peter was also working on Triple M at the time and they were rivals in a sense so it didn’t work out for me. It wasn’t hard work but it was the hardest thing to leave that job. But then I threw myself into our business and that ended up being even better.
Q: As a mum and businesswoman, do you think women face too much pressure to do both? How can we make it easier?
Oh yes, far too much pressure. Dads face it too though. Not all Dads want to be at work for long hours and away from their families. I believe women can have a problem with control though – they want to control their family too much and can put unbelievably high standards on themselves. As someone wise said: we can have it all but just not at the same time. It would be great for women if they could learn to let go more.
Q: You’ve mentioned that it’s hard to get women interested in finance. What do you think are the main reasons for this? What do we need to change?
Perhaps the Cinderella complex is still around i.e. I don’t need to provide for my future because some prince will come along and give me the perfect life. That’s not going to happen to too many of us. You know the line: a man is not a financial plan – that’s so true. If you want to own a house, buy nice clothes, drive a great car – be prepared to learn about money and savings. The greatest satisfaction I get is not owning the actual material things but knowing that my hard work and squirrelling has enabled me to look after myself the way I want to.
Q: What piece of advice can you give others wanting to start their own company?
Take it slowly and listen to others who have done it before. If you get knocked down (and you will), take a deep breath and get up again.