Executive Q&A: Former newspaperwoman finds niche in banking

Suzie Symcox thinks community banks have gotten more than a bad rap since the housing subprime mortgage lending crisis of several years ago.
by Paula Burkes Published: March 10, 2013
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Suzie Symcox thinks community banks have gotten more than a bad rap since the housing subprime mortgage lending crisis of several years ago.

Investment houses misleadingly are being called banks, Symcox said. “But since when can you open a checking account at Goldman Sachs?” she asks. “Calling them a bank blurs the line with rhetoric.”

Conversely, Oklahoma City-based First Fidelity Bank, for which she serves as executive vice president, originates mortgages, but promptly sells them, Symcox said.

“Like any profession, few banks are doing wrong and yet the whole industry has been demonized,” she said. “Community banks are still trying to recover their image, even now.”

It's a natural observation for a marketer-turned-veteran banker. A journalism graduate from the University of Oklahoma, Symcox has worked in banking for 27 years, the past six as chief administrative officer for First Fidelity, which has its roots since 1952 in the family of her husband, and First Fidelity chief executive, Lee Symcox.

Suzie Symcox, who's 5-foot 1-inch tall, has a big job with the bank.

She manages retail, marketing, human resources (the bank employs 380), training, product development, special projects and consumer lending.

From the bank's fifth-floor corporate offices at 5100 N Classen Blvd., Symcox, 56, sat down with The Oklahoman on Tuesday to talk about her professional and personal life. This is an edited transcript:

Q: Tell us about your roots.

A: I grew up in Tulsa, in between two brothers, three years older and five years younger. My father was a computer programmer for Texaco and mother taught second grade for 28 years. I lost them both when I was in my early 30s. My mother died of non-Hodgkin lymphoma at 55, and my father died 18 months later, at age 60, of heart disease. They were college sweethearts at OU.

Q: What were the highlights of your childhood and school years?

A: I grew up doing gymnastics, ballet and tap, and was a cheerleader in junior high. When I attended Tulsa Edison High School, there were no sports for women. Last hour, I took gym where I did synchronized swimming. I didn't love it, but it was fun and the only thing they had for girls then.

Mainly, I worked. I started at age 15, at the since-closed Stewart's & Extension 1. The Tulsa-based, family-owned clothing stores also had branches in Midwest City, at Crossroads Mall and in Norman, where I continued working 40 hours or more a week throughout college at OU. I'd go to class in the morning, and then work from 1 p.m. to 9 p.m. All the social things didn't start until later anyway, and I had Sundays off, because stores weren't open on Sundays then.


by Paula Burkes
Reporter
A 1981 journalism graduate of Oklahoma State University, Paula Burkes has more than 30 years experience writing and editing award-winning material for newspapers and healthcare, educational and telecommunications institutions in Tulsa, Oklahoma...
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PERSONALLY SPEAKING

Position: First Fidelity Bank, executive vice president/chief administrative officer

Birth date: Feb. 9, 1957

Residence: Nichols Hills; she and her husband moved from Norman 10 years ago

Family: Husband, Lee, married 33 years; children John Symcox, 29, a wealth management adviser for the bank; Lauren Voth, 31; and granddaughters, Eliana Voth, 18 months, and McKinnley Voth, born just last month

Education: University of Oklahoma, bachelor's in advertising

Community involvement: The Red Cross Heart of Oklahoma Chapter, immediate past chair; OU Foundation, vice chair; OU Gaylord College of Journalism & Mass Communications, board of visitors; OU Library Society, president; and Alpha Chi Omega, national trustee

For fun: playing with her grandchildren, OU football (they're season ticket holders), golf (she took it up when her son graduated high school) and travel. Her coolest trip thus far has been a week she and Lee spent in Papua New Guinea on the way to Australia. “We stayed in grass huts with no electricity or running water. It was like we were living National Geographic.”

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