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English's job swap

Earlier in the year, Prime Minister John Key talked about his brief career plan to become a horse trainer. Although this was quickly quashed by his concerned mother, it seems Key is not the only minister with alternative career plans.

Finance Minister Bill English revealed what he would like to be doing if he wasn't working in his current role, admitting he would be open to swapping jobs with Massey University vice-chancellor Steve Maharey. Maharey introduced English at last week's finance lunch as "a man who needs no introduction", before joking that if US president Barack Obama was stepping down after eight years, then both his and English's time might be up soon, before saying he wouldn't mind a crack at the minister's role.

"I asked him before, if he wasn't doing his current role, what would he be doing, and he said he'd like to do my job and be a vice-chancellor," Maharey said. English's reasoning was, in his own words, "someone comes along and gives you several million dollars and you get to do whatever you want with it".


Maharey's follow up question on what English would like said at his funeral if he was hit by a bus tomorrow drew laughter from the audience when the minister quipped he would like people to know he had left a dent in the bus.

The annual finance lunch was held at the Stamford Plaza on Thursday, where English addressed guests including Massey University staff, the Auckland Chamber of Commerce, Employers and Manufacturers Association members and others, discussing the state of New Zealand's economy. While English talked big on housing, people were still shy of stepping into the politics around the Unitary Plan debacle during question time.

Technical glitch

After copping heat from angry Sky Go users over outages during important sporting moments, including several major cricket games of the summer, Sky chief executive John Fellet felt the heat again on Friday. The company was webcasting its interim results whentransmission failed part way through for a number of viewers, with several unable to reconnect. Fellet was quick to point out that this technical glitch was due to the third party they were using to stream results, joking he couldn't be held responsible for this one.

Fashionistas trotted out

Alexandra Park is kicking off Auckland Cup Week with high fashion - something normally associated with the gallops not so much harness racing. The club is pulling in some big guns for its inaugural Fashion At The Oaks event on Friday, March 4, with the autumn collections of Adrienne Winkelmann, Adrian Hailwood, Sabatini, Tanya Carlson, Yvonne Bennetti and Zambesi set to be showcased.

Alexandra Park's progressive chief executive Dominique Dowding is driving the Auckland Trotting Club's more upmarket approach to events - all in the name of harness racing reinvigoration. And she's getting good support from the corporate sector.

Auckland car dealership empire, The Winger Group, have been announced the headline sponsor of Alexandra Park's 2016 Oaks & Derby Festival, with the following Friday night, Derby Night on March 11, also including a best dressed and best body art competition. However, despite getting all fashion-focused, one thing never changes at the Friday night trots, general admission for the public remains free.

Direct marketing wins

It was a big evening for Kiwi business Data Insight at last week's New Zealand Direct Marketing Awards, where the company scooped five awards, including the supreme gong for its online property valuation tool Valocity.

The tool is used by banks to help with financial lending decisions and judges commended the company on its ability to transform property data into usable information for customers, saying it was often hard to monetise data insights.

ASB and its agency Saatchi & Saatchi also came out on top, winning the grand prix award as well as three golds for its Snap Scholarship campaign aimed at University Students. Colenso BBDO scooped 13 awards with FCB Group winning 12.

Serko and Xero team up

NZX-listed Serko has partnered with online accounting software company Xero in the launch of its new online travel booking service, set to be released later this year. The service, Serko.travel, is specifically aimed at the small and medium-enterprise market, with travel a significant cost. Under the partnership Serko will access Xero's SME customer base of more than 425,000 subscribers in Australia and New Zealand.

"Our team is excited to work with Serko to, provide SMEs with capabilities usually only available to enterprise customers," Xero chief executive Rod Dury said.

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