From the “typing-pool ladies” to the “live-in Caretaker”, Equity Trustees has always been all about its people. Our longest serving employee of 43 years, Bill Browne has lots to talk about.
Bill was 17 years of age then his uncle spoke to the then Equity Securities Manager about getting him an interview – and this was all that was needed to secure Bill’s first and only job. Wearing a brand new suit bought for the occasion, he arrived at 472 Bourke Street and was offered the job there and then. His interviewer John Crutch said to him, “Go and sit at that desk, you’re starting today!”
It was 1965 and things were a lot different back them. With a staff of 130. Bill remembers, “The gents wore hats which they hung up on their wooden hat stands each morning. The ladies always looked immaculate – the idea of casual Fridays was far from the norm!” And Bill was excited to be starting with Equity Trustees, the company he would remain with for his whole working career.
Bill started in the Accounts department manually filling out ledgers. “Everything was done by pen and paper before being sent to the typing-pool ladies, who would prepare documents to send to clients.”
The company Caretaker lived on the roof of the building and most people got the tram or train to and from work, with not too many people driving cars in those days. Melbourne was far less busy then, with a mere couple of cafes dotted around the city to buy lunch from.
But one thing Bill is adamant on – and that’s that “the company was always a family-friendly place to work, with families getting together regularly. After my wife had triplets, I would regularly visit her in St. Andrews hospital in East Melbourne at lunchtime, with my boss giving me flexibility when needed.” So Equity Trustees was a flexible work place before it became fashionable!
Working in the Trustee industry in those days, Bill says, “There were about 6 companies in competition with each other, but loyalty to your employer was strong. There was great comradery between all the businesses. We regularly met for football and cricket matches between companies.”
Outside of work Bill was a sports fanatic. He sailed in the 1972 Olympic Trials and came fourth, only to be pipped at the post by who other, than the renowned John Bertrand. So who knows where Bill’s career trajectory could have taken him had he been selected! Playing as a reserve for his beloved St. Kilda (VFL in those days), Bill certainly was a gifted sportsman.
So what would have happened had he not got the job in 1965? Bill jokes, “I would have stayed at home and driven my parents crazy!”
It’s not surprising that Bill came across lots of characters in his 43 years looking after clients. One particular client hoarded hundreds of umbrellas and was quite wealthy. Yet she would ring Bill and tell him he was giving her “barely enough money for butter!” This same client was always telling Bill, “I want you to have my Mercedes Benz!” – an offer he obviously couldn’t accept. But these offers stopped suddenly one day, when she rang Bill after accidently reversing the Merc into her neighbour’s garden fence!
Some of the people Bill worked with towards the end of his career in 2008 include Ian Westley and Harvey Kalman (all still at Equity Trustees). Kerrie Sles took over Bill’s role and they remain good friends today.
Retiring at 60, Bill looks back at his time working for Equity Trustees fondly. Asked what he thinks of Equity Trustees in 2018, Bill sees us as a company that helps people take care of their futures. We make a difference to people’s lives through partnerships, trust and empathy.
So whilst we may have moved on from typing pools and live-in Caretakers, one thing is for sure. Equity Trustees wouldn’t be the company it is today without dedicated people. People, like Bill, who make us great.