CEOs hit the hay for homelessness

by Melanie Mingas24 Jun 2019

The finance industry came out in force last Thursday for the annual Vinnies CEO Sleepout, held in nine cities across the country on one of the longest nights of the year.

In Sydney, where temperatures fell as low as 4˚C, more than 300 bedded down for the night at the White Bay Cruise Terminal in Balmain, including execs from AMP Wealth, Westpac, Lendi and Athena Home Loans.

Bernard Fehon, who founded the event when he worked for AMP, said the original idea came from seeing his children doing sleepouts through their school, while he was organising fundraising dinners for CEOs. Combining the two ideas, the Vinnies CEO Sleepout was established.

“It was born and in a little meeting room at a Vinnies facility in Merrylands in February 2006 then in June of that year, on the longest night of the year at Stadium Australia, about 10 CEOs took part in the first event,” said Fehon, who today is the CEO of Blue Mountains Economic Enterprise.

While that first sleepout raised about $40,000, this year Vinnies exceeded its country-wide target to raise $7m – and donations are still open. The funds raised are used to support Vinnies services and facilities, providing essential supplies and practical support for those experiencing or at risk of homelessness.

Across the country, 1,637 executives from all industries participated in events in Adelaide, Brisbane, Canberra, Gold Coast, Launceston, Melbourne, Newcastle, Sydney and Wollongong. Two more sleepouts, in Geelong and Perth, will take place on 27 June.

Among the finance executives in Sydney were AMP Wealth CEO Alex Wade; Westpac’s GM of global transaction services, Di Challenor; co-founder and CEO of Athena Home Loans, Nathan Walsh; Jean-Pierre Gortan, MD of Simplicity Loans and Advisory; Dave Hyman, co-founder and MD of Lendi; and William Xin, founder and director of Xin Mortgages.

Out in force, Genworth, CBA and QBE Insurance all had teams taking part.

Speaking to Australian Broker on the night, Nathan Walsh said, “We work in an industry that is all about helping people to get into a home, but sadly not all Australians have that opportunity.

“This is about us getting a taste of what thousands go through every night and also to support the wonderful work that Vinnies is doing. I’m really delighted to be a part of that,” he added.

Jean-Pierre Gortan said that although this was his first sleepout, he’s already planning to return next year.

“I have friends who have been homeless so whatever I can do to shed more light on the topic is a great thing. Donating money here and there is good but donating your time is much more valuable because you highlight the issues to your network,” he said.

Full coverage of the event will feature in Australian Broker issue 16.13, out on 15 July.