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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Q: How did you meet your husband?

A: We were in the same class at OU, but didn't meet until the summer after we graduated. The girlfriend I roomed with and her boyfriend, who was Lee's buddy, individually invited us to watch the July Fourth fireworks at a park in Norman. Then that day, after Lee was already at our house, they called at the last minute from out of town to back out. They so did it on purpose. We were engaged two months later and married that January. It was the most impulsive thing I've ever done. We were really good friends, and I just knew he was it.

Q: Did you have a career before banking?

A: I earned my degree in advertising, and, for three or four years, worked in journalism. My senior year at OU, a few of my professors talked me into buying an interest in The Cleveland County Reporter weekly newspaper, and my dad cosigned on the loan with me. As the youngest publisher in the state at the time, I did everything — from write articles to sell advertising to paste-up, frequently working 'til two or three in the morning. I sold the newspaper when I got pregnant with Lauren.

Q: What led you into banking?

A: The oil bust. The bank had to let go its advertising agency, because they were cutting expenses any way we could. Lee came home and asked if I'd handle the advertising for free. At first, I went in for a few hours, while the kids were in preschool. Then, the bank started getting demanding, wanting me to have set hours. I said they'd have to pay me. I worked part time for about a year before coming on full time. And, as time went on and I learned the business, I started taking on more projects, like starting our call centers and adding branches. Today, we have 28 locations.

Q: How is it working with your husband?

A: We take different cars to work and, unless we're in a meeting, we see each other only five to 10 minutes a day. Now that the kids are out of the house, we do talk business for about 30 minutes in the evening about our respective work days and any issues. We have different styles that complement each other. A processor, Lee typically thinks through every angle before he takes a position on something. Conversely, I'm a debater. I like to throw out what I think we should do, then beat it up and modify it.


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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