Outgoing African Bank CEO Basani Maluleke: Bank's success a 'team effort'

31 January 2021 - 07:50 By hilary joffe
Outgoing African Bank CEO Basani Maluleke. Picture: SUPPLIED
Outgoing African Bank CEO Basani Maluleke. Picture: SUPPLIED

As African Bank's chair Thabo Dloti moved to try to contain the damage after the sudden departure of CEO Basani Maluleke, she spoke out for the first time to express her sadness at leaving the bank and her confidence in the team she leaves behind.

Neither Dloti nor Maluleke would comment on reports in Business Day that a difference of opinion between them was behind the departure of Maluleke, the first black woman CEO of a South African bank, who led the bank's turnaround over the past three years.

Nor was it clear where Maluleke might be headed; the bank's shock announcement on Monday said she was leaving "to pursue other career opportunities".

She told Business Times on Friday she would be taking some time out.

"I am disappointed not to have been able to see through the turnaround of the organisation but I think the business is in good hands.

"I am proud of the team I've left behind. They are people who have mostly been there for longer than I and we do have the people on hand who can ensure that the strategy we had developed together will continue to be implemented."

Dloti said in an interview on Wednesday that the transformation of the bank that started when it came out of curatorship in 2016 had made great progress and it was "amiss to ascribe the leadership of the process to one person".

Much of the process had started before Maluleke became CEO and the bank had an incredibly good executive committee that would continue to take it forward, Dloti said.

Maluleke joined the board as a non-executive director in 2015, when the bank was still under curatorship, before becoming CEO in April 2018.

Business Times has seen an emotional videotaped farewell to African Bank's more than 3,700 staff this week in which Maluleke thanked them for supporting her in building "the dream of a world-class bank for all South Africans".

"I have loved being your leader," she told staff in the video.

Her departure was announced just ahead of the bank's financial results for the year to end-September 2020, which showed it has made great strides in building its retail deposit book and digital transactional banking platform as it shifts away from the monoline business model, focused on unsecured lending, that was one cause of its failure in 2014.

The bank's CFO, Gustav Raubenheimer, has been appointed interim CEO. Maluleke will serve a three-month notice period, providing support for the handover. The two presented a "subdued" set of financial results, reporting a R27m net loss after tax for the year to September, compared with a R1.2bn profit for the previous year.

That reflected increased credit provisioning and increased insurance claims as customers were laid off or retrenched or went on short time during the hard lockdown in the first half.

However, the bank was profitable in the second half of its financial year.

All of SA's big banks saw their earnings slide last year as they set aside large provisions in anticipation of loans going bad as a result of the Covid crisis and the lockdown.