For a bank boss focused on the big issues of the economy and finance, $7 is small change.
But for The Big Issue vendors like Allan Crabbe, selling the magazine is a lifeline to financial security.
National Australia Bank chief executive Andrew Thorburn took a break from his $50 billion balance sheet to sell a few copies of the magazine and promote the efforts of vendors like Mr Crabbe, who operates in the shadows of NAB’s Melbourne tower.
“It’s been great to be with him,” Mr Thorburn said.
“To see how he interacts with people in a very conversational way about the big issues and sells the magazine in the process, and really has a livelihood for himself. There’s a lot to really love about it,” he said.
Casualisation a threat to full-time jobs
The magazine is often used as a stepping stone to employment, and Mr Thorburn noted the difficulties arising from the growth in precarious, casual jobs.
“I think this is one of the big issues in Australia for the next five to 10 years: the new nature of work, more casual,” he said.
“The internet is changing things. I think overall that’s very good for people, but there’s a huge shift in the type of work.
“That’s happened in Australia for the last 30 to 40 years. But with the internet — with digital business — huge transformation.”
In November, when NAB revealed a full-year net profit of $5.3 billion, Mr Thorburn revealed the loss of 6,000 jobs over three years as digital transactions and banking technology wipe out traditional jobs in the sector.
About 2,000 new digitally-focused positions are set to be created at the bank in the same period.
The Big Issue helping people help themselves
Mr Thorburn joined more than 100 high-profile sellers taking to the streets this week, including Telstra chief executive officer Andy Penn, ANZ boss Shayne Elliott, and deputy Labor leader Tanya Plibersek.
Vendors buy the magazine for $3.50 a copy and sell them for twice that, keeping the difference.
More than 11 million magazines have been sold since the project began in 1996.
“You know, the motto of Big Issue is ‘help people to help themselves’,” Mr Thorburn said.
“He’s helping himself, out there building some cashflow for himself, but building self-esteem and his ability to connect.”
That is what will drive jobs in the coming years, he added.
“Individuals having initiative, educational institutions teaching people the skills of the future and then big companies like ours making sure we invest in training and development — which is what we’re doing — to help people in the future,” he said.
Mr Crabbe spent the morning giving tips to the bank boss, and greeting longstanding customers.
“After 21 years of working at the Big Issue, standing at 500 Bourke Street Monday to Friday, and working the weekend — I’m a workaholic,” he said.
“I get myself here, I get myself to work.”
‘Stark focus’ as royal commission begins on Monday
The Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry begins on Monday, ushering in what will be a searching year-long examination of the big four banks.
The bank’s submissions are not yet public, but Mr Elliott called theirs “confronting” in a note to staff last week.
Mr Thorburn concurs: “I would use a similar word,” he said.
“I’ve been working in banking over 30 years, I think a bank fundamentally does so many good things to help people
“We’re part of the community all around Australia and I’ve very proud of that.
“But when you read that, and it brings it into stark focus: you know, mistakes have been made.
“We have to own those, be accountable for them and we need to rebuild trust with the Australian people.
“That’s absolutely what we’re going to do.”
Although the banking industry and Government denied the need for a high-level inquiry, Mr Thorburn hopes the commission’s hearings and report is cathartic for the sector and the economy.
“I hope it enables us closure and the ability to move forward,” he said.
“For people to not just have confidence in the industry, but to have trust in it.
“That’s what I hope lies ahead.”