Old Mutual’s board changes benefit diversity

Old Mutual plc announced a number of changes to its board yesterday with the group’s chairperson, Patrick O’Sullivan, emphasising the need for “diversity in terms of skills, experience, geography and gender”.

The main changes are the appointment of two independent non-executive directors, Zoe Cruz and Adiba Ighodaro. Bongani Nqwababa, a high profiled South African executive is living the Old Mutual plc board.

From a South African perspective, the rhythm coming from the Johannesburg originated London based financial services giant, Old Mutual plc, will be seen to benefiting the push for employment equity, diversity if you like.

The two women joining the board, Cruz and Ighodaro, from the US and Nigeria respectively come to benefit the diversity of Old Mutual board.

O’Sullivan said “With these appointments, we now have a Board which reflects substantial diversity in terms of skills, experience, geography and gender. The composition of the Board has been structured so as to match and support the evolution and focus of the Group’s strategy.”

Early this year Old Mutual Emerging Markets announced the appointment of two business leaders from Kenya and Zimbabwe to its boards and also emphasised diversity. These were Peter Wanyanga Muthoka from Kenya and Mordecai Pilate Mahlangu from Zimbabwe.

Companies like Old Mutual have discovered a need to reflect demographic realities of their market focus. This discovery can also be attributed to pressure from emerging market activists where such companies are making most of their money. The fact that Old Mutual originated in South Africa makes this pressure even more real.

Such pressure can be better grasped with Anglo American plc in view. Like Old Mutual, Anglo American was originated in South Africa and moved its primary listing to the London Stock Exchange in the late 1990’s while maintaining a secondary listing on the JSE.

The move may have dislocated the leadership of such businesses from their roots but they continue to run with huge exposure on South Africa and are growing presence on the rest of the African continent.

With this view, South Africa’s most powerful investor, the Public Investment Corporation (PIC) read the riot act to Anglo American in 2012. The PIC which manages funds from the Government Employees Pension Fund ordered Anglo American to fix its board into one that reflects demographics of its market focus. This was captured in a letter to the Anglo American board chairperson, Sir John Parker, and signed by the PIC board chairperson, Nhlanhla Nene, who is also South Africa’s deputy finance minister.

O’Sullivan’s rhythm is likely sooth the latter position. The Old Mutual plc chair added that “We are very pleased to welcome Zoe and Adiba to our Board.”

Zoe’s extensive experience of international financial markets and asset management will provide us with additional insight into these important areas of the Group’s business, while Adiba’s deep knowledge of investing and operating in sub-Saharan Africa will widen the Board’s ability to evaluate opportunities as we pursue our strategy of expanding further into this region.”

See this piece for Zoe Cruz and Adiba Ighodaro profiles.


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