Chris Cuffe infamously became the $33
million man when what were effectively several years’ bonus performances
crystallised in a farewell payment from
the Commonwealth Bank.

CBA chief David Murray unleashed a general
pillorying, never mind that the Commonwealth should have known what it was
doing with Cuffe’s contract when it
bought Colonial.

Yes, it was an obscene amount of money –
but, on an annualised basis, less obscene than what the banks and other
major companies continue to pay their CEOs. And Cuffe had done a very good job
at Colonial – unlike some on multi-million paypackets. The publicity was

Cuffe was battered by the attention – he’s
never struck me as one of the Masters-of-the-Universe types. Confirmation of
that might be that he never quite fitted in with the Packer culture at Challenger
Financial Services where he went to next.

He only lasted a year there before Kerry
Packer relieved him of the CEO title, leaving him to run the wealth management
side while Mike Tilley was brought in to take the top job.

Now Cuffe is leaving Challenger, albeit retaining a consultancy title. The interesting thing is that he is one
wealthy executive who is really is “giving something back” by joining
micro-finance charity Opportunity International. As various headlines put it
this morning, “Cuffe swaps riches for rags,” “$33 million man off to fight

Opportunity International and its
micro-finance work is a good and interesting story. It will be interesting to
see what Cuffe can bring to its expansion in offering third world micro-loans –
measured in tens of dollars rather than the millions and billions he used to
play with.

Perhaps some who thought the worst of him
for that golden parachute might reconsider.

Meanwhile, back at Challenger, Cuffe’s
departure is but one of several changes. Could that be the new brooms at PBL
sweeping a little harder?