Bruce Whitfield Keynote Speaker
New brooms across FirstRand

Africa’s most valuable banking group FirstRand has announced sweeping leadership changes which take place over the next six months which will see a new board chair, CEO and boss of its retail banking division all starting their new roles within a short space of time.

CEO Alan Pullinger stepping down next year after 6 years as group CEO. COO Mary Vilikazi who has been preparing for the role since her appointment to that position in 2018 will take over at that point.

Jacques Cilliers is resigning as CEO of FNB but remains within the First Rand Group as the head of its Fintech strategy. He is being replaced by the group CFO Harry Kellan who has been in that job for a decade.

Chairman Roger Jardine is stepping down as chairman next month – and he will be replaced by former CEO Johan Burger.

All the appointments are internal. FirstRand says it displays its depth of talent and succession planning.

FirstRand has only deviated from that script once before. Each of its three founders, GT Ferreira, Laurie Dippenaar and Paul Harris served terms as CEO. The first two also chaired the group. When Harris stepped down, the group went outside and hired Sizwe Nxasana from Telkom, first as CEO of FirstRand Bank and later as group CEO. He in turn was replaced by Burger, who was succeeded by Pullinger. Burger’s ascension to the chairmanship is in line with established group tradition.

It’s always risky going outside to hire bank CEO’s – a lesson Absa has learned to its cost in the past two decades. Erstwhile chair and former CEO of Absa Danie Cronje controversially at the time identified former Anglo executive Rupert Pardoe as successor to Nallie Bosman. As things turned out, the job went to Steve Booysen who was replaced four years into his five-year contract with former Treasury DG and Transnet CEO Maria Ramos who left after a decade without a successor in place. The bank then tapped long serving deputy Reserve Bank governor Daniel Mminele, who resigned 18 months into the job and was replaced by the highly experienced insider Arrie Rautenbach.

Nedbank is on the hunt for a successor to Mike Brown who moved across from BOE with Tom Boardman when Nedbank bought that business during the small banks’ crisis of 2003. Boardman would be chosen ahead of internal candidates, much to the chagrin of strong internal talent to replace Richard Laubscher and when the time came, Brown took over from him. Earlier this year, Nedbank announced it was looking for a successor to Brown who has been at the helm for 15 years. It is unclear whether it will favour an internal or external candidate.

When the time came for Jacko Maree to make way at the helm of Standard Bank, Sim Tshabalala led a four-horse race for the top job and took over after a year of sharing the title with fellow contender Ben Kruger. Both Maree and Kruger remain on the board while as Tshabalala enters his sixth year at the helm of the group.

Standard Bank, like FirstRand has focussed on growing, grooming and developing internal talent for the top job – it’s seen by regulators and analysts as a positive process to ensure stability and continuity in management. Banks are notoriously delicate eco-systems where certainty and succession are prized as positives in what can be significant changes.

FirstRand’s decision to overhaul its top leadership to the extent it has with three significant changes all at once with internal candidates will be seen as positive by a jittery market.

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