No knocking this shop: 'twas all in a good cause

MORTGAGE brokers work for all kinds of incentives. Money. Bonuses. Even trips to the Playboy Mansion.

MORTGAGE brokers work for all kinds of incentives. Money. Bonuses. Even trips to the Playboy Mansion.

Australian Finance Group last week took more than 100 of its top brokers on a five-day trip to the US. It's an annual trip sponsored by big players in the industry, including the big banks, to reward the gun performers. While the visit included such activities as a cycling tour and conferencing sessions, it was suggestions of "a charity function at the Playboy Mansion" in an industry newsletter that piqued our interest.

After all, apart from a keen interest in vital statistics, we were unclear of synergies between Hugh Hefner's house of flesh and the mortgage broking industry.

AFG managing director Brett McKeon was quick to insist it was all a terrible misunderstanding. You see, the event was not one set up by his organisation. And it was a charity event. One supporting anti-smoking, no less.

McKeon assures us there were as many female as male brokers in attendance and none declined the invitation or were offended by the visit. He felt it worthwhile to point out that none of the major banks that benefit from AFG's mortgage broking activities was in attendance. And he was also keen to stress the trip to the Playboy Mansion was paid for by AFG and not the banks.

His sheepishness may have something to do with the fact that major banks sponsor the overseas trip and may not like being linked with a Playboy Mansion visit.

Why choose to attend? "We thought it's an iconic part of Hollywood, it's a charity function and gives our members an opportunity to attend the mansion. We won't be doing it again. Next year's trip will be a bit more sedentary.

"We've had a bit of blowback," he said.

If the hats fit . . .

DAVID Gonski has had many and varied roles in his well-connected career. A chairman's hat here, an advisory role there.

But we're pleased to see his latest role as executive headhunter adding a touch of diversity to his resume. Particularly when he can play find and seek without moving from in front of the mirror.

Gonski searched long and hard for the Gillard government to find a new head of the Future Fund, sounding out directors for their preference, before miraculously finding the new man's smiling visage in the bathroom mirror.

So, we were taken by the announcement that Gonski has taken the gig to help the New South Wales government find a new boss for Sydney's much-loved railway system.

Pleasingly, there are two chief executive roles to be filled.

Given Gonski's eponymous review of the education sector has been finalised, we're certain there's plenty of room in his diary to head both the Future Fund and drive the 6.15am City Circle service to the CBD.

Hands-on counting

COUNTING large numbers is a tricky business. Particularly when one is forced to resort to using a second hand.

So, imagine the distress felt by senior executives at Toll Holdings last week when the company's full-year report came out detailing their salaries only for the poor chaps to find a series of rather unfamiliar numbers in the report.

Perhaps it was the muttering in the tea room. Or questions about how much so-and-so got.

But yesterday Toll was forced to amend the rather keenly observed remuneration table for its top executives, 'fessing to a few errors.

Surely former managing director Paul Little hadn't cross-checked the pay slips and figured he'd been short-changed? Alas, no. Turns out problems emerged between "incorrect allocation" between cash salary and non-monetary pay for some executives.

So, while the market was told last week Little took home $1.2 million in cash salary last year, his pay slip showed a slightly lower number. Pleasingly, though, there were some other benefits that ensured the total number remained unchanged at $6.4 million.

Similar slip-ups were recorded in the pay disclosure of most of Toll's top 10 executives.

Heir rescue

WESTPAC heir apparent Brian Hartzer has secured the services of Melanie Evans as his chief of staff, after the former BT superannuation manager's role was made redundant last week.

Brad Cooper, boss of the Westpac-owned BT, performed some management musical chairs, which left the highly regarded Evans on the outer.

Hartzer, the new Australian financial services head, has appointed Evans to a gatekeeper role similar to one at CEO Gail Kelly's office that will see Evans well positioned should Hartzer one day assume the top job.

Tigers burn bright

SPOTTED on the wharves outside CBD's Sydney hustings: colourfully dressed players from rugby league's Balmain Tigers boarding an All Occasions Cruises dinghy. At least they were contained on a boat, we hear you cry. And clothed.

Of greater interest to your diarist, Balmain legend Benny Elias is in all sorts of bother trying to develop the old Balmain Leagues Club site on Victoria Road while bro Joe Elias runs All Occasions Cruises, which was awarded the Blackwattle Bay development. You win some, you lose some.

mevans@smh.com.au

Twitter: @mevanssmh

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