Let the guessing games begin as Absa seeks new CEO

03 February 2019 - 06:45 By TJ STRYDOM


Absa needs a new CEO. Maria Ramos departs at the end of this month and interim chief Rene van Wyk is a placeholder for only a year.
Analysts and company insiders agree that the chances of a white male getting the job permanently are slim to none.
And relative youth will also be an important factor, as Absa's eligible retirement age is 60 and the bank will be looking for someone to fill the role for at least five years, but more likely about seven.
The candidate also needs solid banking experience.
Absa, which has had a decade of fading fortunes in its core South African market under controlling shareholder Barclays, is embarking on a fresh strategy to claw back market share. The new CEO will have to be willing to implement plans that have already been made.
And she or he will have to take the reins by March next year and will most likely be introduced to the markets and the public when Absa's interim results are announced in September, a company insider said.
Absa has said it is not looking to fill the position from within, which eliminates deputy CEO Peter Matlare from the race.
These criteria also make it highly unlikely that former deputy CEO David Hodnett will get the nod, despite knowing the bank's inner workings.
Ramos, when she joined Absa in 2009, did not have a strong background in traditional banking.
She had been in public service as National Treasury director-general (DG) and ran state-owned logistics company Transnet.
In recent years Absa has looked to competitor Standard Bank for some of its important appointments.
This is why the name of Lungisa Fuzile, who heads Standard Bank's South African business, springs to mind.
Fuzile shares Ramos's public service background, having also climbed to DG in the National Treasury before joining the private sector.
But he's been at the bank for only a year, making it less likely that he would move so quickly.
When asked whether he had been approached for the top job at Absa and whether he would consider the position if offered it, Fuzile said: "I'm fine with my current job. I'm not looking for a job anywhere."
There's one former Standard Bank man who does fit the bill, though. Kennedy Bungane, who is now CEO of Phutuma Nhleko's Phembani Group, has 25 years' experience in banking.
In 2012 Absa pinched him from Standard Bank, where he had been in charge of the corporate and investment bank. Bungane, who ran Absa's Africa strategy, announced he would leave the bank for Phembani in 2014.
This week Bungane declined to comment on whether he had been approached or would consider the Absa CEO position.
An outlier could be former Reserve Bank deputy governor Francois Groepe. He resigned from the bank last month and has a cooling-off period of six months. He has executive experience, having headed Naspers's Media24 unit.
Groepe could not be reached for comment. His open seat at the Reserve Bank could also be a logical next step for Ramos if she has designs on Lesetja Kganyago's job as governor of the institution. Kganyago's term expires in November, though he has said he would be willing to stay on.
Other vacancies that could do with Ramos's mix of government and private sector experience are the hot seats of South African Revenue Service commissioner or CEO of the Public Investment Corporation (PIC). Ironically, if she became PIC boss, she would head the biggest shareholder in Absa.
Ramos declined a request for an interview. - Additional reporting by Ntando Thukwana and Penelope Mashego

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