Pearls of Wisdom from Jim Dominguez, a Force in the Australian Investment Banking World

Sunday 26 March, 2017

The height of his career saw him as an agent of change in the Australian financial markets, so it’s no wonder that Jim Dominguez came to the Warrane Wednesday Night Dinner on 26 April 2017 armed with many bon mots for the boys. After all, this is a man who is a CBE - Commander of the British Empire, an honour awarded by the Queen in 1993 for his service to British business in Australia; as well as an AM - Member in the Order of Australia in 1987 in acknowledgement of his work in healthcare and education. Additionally in 2013 Pope Benedict XVI conferred on him a Papal Knighthood as Commander in the Order of St Gregory the Great.

More recently he was awarded by the University of Sydney a Doctorate of Science in Economics honoris causa.

Jim co-founded a Stock Exchange Member firm as part of his successful career in financial markets and investment banking. The broking firm – Dominguez & Barry - was to become Dominguez Barry Samuel Montagu and later SBC Dominguez Barry, with him as Chairman through the changes. He was also a non-executive Director of Samuel Montagu in London for a decade.

During his time in the capital markets he overviewed many structural changes and much deregulation in the securities industry and banking, some of which was driven by his firm.

Another feature of his professional career was a strong interest in Asia, especially Japan and later Singapore. Some 30 years of his active business career saw him visiting Asian locations, and even afterwards he has still been a regular there. Over some three or four years recently he has been on tours of the Silk Road, starting in China and finishing in Central Asia.

Jim’s later work saw him as a non-executive director or adviser in many industries – as he puts it, “I’ve been in coal mining,  aluminium smelting,  property, power stations, computer routers, software, confectionery, coffee, pearl farming and wine.”

But that’s just Jim being humble, because his high-calibre career has seen his involvement with many companies. He really has worked with some major names: Wine Australia Corporation, EMC Global Holdings, Cisco Systems Australia, eTrade, Fuji Xerox, Zurich Investments, Nestle Australia, Capral Aluminium, Private Health Insurance Administration Council, Swiss Bank Corporation, Powerhouse Museum, University of Notre Dame and more.

The list goes on considering that he was on the Marist Finance Commission, Chair of St Vincent's Hospital Sydney, Member of the Garvan Institute of Medical Research and Fellow of the Senate of the University of Sydney, its governing body – all on a pro bono basis. He was a director of the Sisters of Charity Foundation for five years from 2011.

To think that this is the resume of a country boy from Victoria! Jim was the eldest of nine children in what he describes as a happy boisterous Catholic family. He attended boarding school – Assumption College Kilmore - and then Newman College at Melbourne University. Sadly his father passed away just days before his 21st birthday and Jim’s youngest sibling was only two, leaving him as the man of the family.

So what sorts of advice did he have for the Warrane boys?

When It Comes to a Career...

On a professional front, Jim had many a pointer to impart. Considering he got his first job by literally walking the streets and knocking on doors to find what was available (albeit with a Commerce degree from Melbourne University, which also gave him an extensive network), he encouraged the boys to do the same: use the influential Warrane network, talk to any contacts in areas of special interest, and discover what jobs are in need of being filled, especially those not advertised.

He heartened the boys to aim high in their work. “If you’re going to succeed in this world you have to be ambitious,” he said, also soberly adding however – “It’s best not to make it too obvious.” In other words, a quiet and humble ambition can go a long way! But it needs to be combined with drive, tenacity and street-smartness.

Another tip for the boys was, “It’s good to be honest, and it’s good business to be honest.”  A life lesson that certainly applies in his professional world, he made it clear that being tricky or duplicitous would get you nowhere. Business relationships, as any relationship, require honesty at their foundations.

The concept of “political correctness” came up too (something so distasteful to Jim that he grimaced as he said the words) – how some people in the workplace would opt to be politically correct rather than stay true to what they believe. Jim advised the boys to stand strong: “You’ve often got to be pretty game to stick your hand up... because it may get shot off...”

As a man who has achieved so much in his life, it was unsurprising that one of the boys asked how he managed to do so many different things and excel in each one. “My wife would answer that,” said Jim, “I still don’t get enough sleep: I must admit that! But these later jobs I talk about have been non-executive jobs, so I might have several of them running at the same time. That makes it a bit more manageable... But I’m now 78 years old and it’s about time I started to get a bit more sense, I think.”

It was clear to see that Jim has a real love for his work – especially considering that he was supposed to have retired by now. As he put it, “20 years ago when I finished my nine-to-five work, my official occupation became failed retiree. And it’s still failing because I still get to the office five days a week!” Now there’s a man who enjoys what he does.

Defending Traditional Marriage

Apart from career advice, Jim also told the boys about an issue presently close to his heart: defending traditional marriage. He has supported many social causes over the years, including playing a pivotal role some decades ago in helping to remove euthanasia from the statute books in Australia.

Married for over 50 years with five kids and nine grandchildren, he regards traditional marriage as the rock upon which family and community stability is based.  

He is currently part of the movement to protect marriage as we know it. “One of the important things that we do is stress that in opposing same-sex marriage we’re not anti-gay; we’re focusing on the institution of marriage as we’ve all understood and accepted it,” he clarified.

There are no legal impediments to same-sex couples forming a union. However research has demonstrated that more that 30% of gay couples have indicated that they have no intention of ever marrying.

He told the boys: “Well I’m sure in this room, as in my own home, there’s not total  agreement on the issue of same-sex marriage. The focus group polls that we have conducted indicate that 70% of the community are in favour of it, and 30% are opposed to it.”

He advised that  while the majority prima facie does seem in favour of same-sex marriage, the supporting number drops from 70% to below 50% when the  groups are informed of the consequences. Similarly, those opposed to SSM increase from 30% to 45%. “If you are in favour, and would like to see same-sex marriage introduced, you know that that requires a junking of the current Marriage Act and a new act. And that new act is going to open the door for a number of other things – the consequences are fairly substantial; very significant.”

He spoke of consequences such as the forced introduction of the Safe Schools Program. While this appears to have a very noble anti-bullying aim, it also means the exposure of young children to quite disturbing and confusing material. Other implications are already taking place, for example the changes in ACT birth certificates: “Birth certificates down there now allow for the words ‘mother’ and ‘father’ to be excluded,” said Jim.” All you have is ‘Parent 1’ and ‘Parent 2’.”

Additionally individuals like Archbishop Porteous in Hobart who issued a pamphlet on traditional marriage could be charged and fined or jailed for discrimination. “That’s the way it’s going to go.”

In conclusion

All in all, Jim was a shining example for the boys – an example of a busy and happy life; of a man who has maintained his faith, stood by his principles and come out the better for it; and of a man who is not afraid to laugh at himself and be a little bit mischievous.

And he certainly is all about living life to the fullest – as evident from his tongue-in-cheek attitude towards longevity. “My goal is to die with an empty wine cellar. For me that is happily still a work in progress, but I know if I pursue that with enough vigour, it will become self-fulfilling.”

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