After completing a Bachelor of Commerce in 1985, Brent Cubis' career has taken him right to the top of the corporate ladder with senior roles at Nine and ACP Magazines.
In 2009 he left the commercial world behind for a dramatically different role at Chris O'Brien Lifehouse at RPA, where as CFO he is helping realise Chris' vision to fund and build Australia's first comprehensive Cancer Hospital.
Brent returned to the corporate sector to Fitness First after it changed ownership under Oaktree Management. He has worked with the Executive and Global Teams (Fitness First has almost 400 clubs in 12 countries around the world) on the turnaround of the company after its previous owners over-geared themselves and didn't have sufficient cash to invest in the business. This has included the rebranding, refurbishment program across the portfolio, investment in new product and staff training which has been partially funded through some efficiency programs Brent has led.
How did your Commerce degree impact your subsequent career?
It enabled me to pursue a number of career options in finance starting in the CA profession then various industries here and overseas. I have also found in more recent times with social media and other forums I have reconnected with alumni (some have been very successful running their own business) and that has been helpful at work.
What particular skills held you in good stead as CFO for ACP Magazines and Nine?
A passion for the product (Television and Magazines) certainly helped. Being results driven and prepared to take on challenges was also necessary and a 'thick skin'. Negotiating skills were also important.
What did you enjoy most about these roles?
Having direct exposure to Kerry Packer and others who I had admired for years and working with a professional team who were arguably the best in the business. It was a business you were proud to work in, particularly when you saw new programs go to air and the launch of magazines. Working on the sale of the Nine business to the Private Equity group CVC was another highlight.
After 25 years on the corporate ladder you made a radical shift to the NFP sector with Chris O'Brien Lifehouse at RPA. Was this move always the plan? Why did you choose Lifehouse?
The roles I had been in were very demanding particularly during the GFC. I wanted to spend more time with family and feel like I was making more of a community contribution rather than just for shareholders or the banks as was the case during the GFC. I had lost two friends in their 40s to cancer and had started raising money for Cancer Research by running in races around the world. Sam Chisholm (our Chairman) had always been a generous supporter in the races and offered me the role of CFO as he knew the "cause" was important to me.
What would you say to others considering the leap from corporate to NFP?
Most importantly you should be passionate about the particular NFP cause. As with any job it should pass the 'Sunday BBQ test' - by that I mean you should be proud to say where you work. Be prepared to roll your sleeves up as you will not have the resources you may have been used to in the corporate world. A commercial board is essential - with wide connections in the corporate world. The people working for Lifehouse are all very caring and dedicated to the cause which is refreshing compared to some of the cut-throat aspects in corporate life.
You're at the forefront of trialling social bonds in Australia for Lifehouse, how will these bonds work?
This sector is still in its infancy in Australia and will take a few years to develop (in the US over $16Billion has been raised with them). The bonds are for a six year term and pay an average interest rate of approximately 6% p.a. We had an opportunity to bring forward the second stage of the Cancer Centre by a few years and save a significant amount of money. This was a more flexible and longer term debt option which also introduced us to a number of new supporters. We have now combined this with a bank facility (from the ANZ) which will enable us to complete the second stage earlier and save enough to fund two 'In-Patient' floors.
Where do you see Chris O'Brien Lifehouse at RPA in five years time?
Cancer kills 42,000 Australians each year, so it is a facility that is urgently needed to help tackle what is the single largest cause of premature death in Australia. The new centre will transform cancer treatment for Australians through an environment thriving on discovery, research and uncompromising care. It will have 96 'in-patients beds', 18 Intensive Care units, 40 Chemotherapy chairs, 10 Theatres, 56 clinic rooms, 1 full floor with 200 researchers focusing just on cancer trials and research and Integrative Complementary Care.