Where art thou BEE disciples?

Standard Bank should count itself lucky for the fortuitous timing of Jacko Maree’s retirement which has triggered a controversial succession process.

South Africa’s largest banking group, Standard Bank, announced yesterday the retirement of Maree after holding the fort for 13 years. He is to be replaced by a duo of Sim Tshabalala and Ben Kruger.

In appointing the two as co CEOs, Standard Bank has raised eyebrows. Dualisation of the CEO post is not a common feature across the world, possibly because of inherent challenges in such an arrangement. You know what they say about two bulls in the same kraal.

Within the South African context the move will be interpreted in certain quarters as paying lip service to affirmative action. Tshabalala was largely expected to take-over from Maree, not only for his excellent skills but for the bank to register its commitment to affirmative action.

The timing of Standard Bank’s move is fortuitous due to the absence or displacement of brave affirmative action disciples. Had the ensuing Standard Bank leadership transition took place, say three years ago,  it would have drawn fire  from the likes of Brian Molefe and Jimmy Manyi. These two firebrands have since been displaced from positions which gave them a perfect platform to be affirmative action agents.

The former Public Investment Corporation (PIC) CEO, Molefe, is now running trains at Transnet while Jimmy Manyi’s tenure at the Black Management Forum (BMF) ended last year. As such there will be less noise about the gestures towards affirmative action coming out of Standard Bank’s move. Remember how Molefe tackled giants like Sasol and Barloworld. Remember how Manyi terrorised the likes of Alexander Forbes. For many, those were the good old days. Had they not made that noise, one has to doubt if companies like Sasol and Barloworld would have made the strides they have made on the affirmative action front.

But then perhaps half a loaf is better than none. Standard Bank said Maree retires after a carefully planned management succession process.

The bank said the dualisation of the CEO post was designed to take advantage of each of the joint Chief Executives’ skills, knowledge and talent. They will split the main duties of the CEO office.

The 45 years old Tshabalala remains Chief Executive of Standard Bank SA. “He will take charge of the group’s banking businesses outside South Africa on the African continent. He will also take charge of the group’s Wealth businesses, including responsibility for Liberty Holdings. Simon Ridley, the Group Financial Director, will report to him”.

The 53 years old Kruger remains in charge of Personal & Business Banking (PBB) and Corporate & Investment Banking (CIB). “He will remain chairman of Standard Bank Plc. He will be responsible for the Group Risk function. Peter Wharton-Hood, the Chief Operating Officer responsible primarily for IT and Operations, will report to him”.

Tshabalala, Kruger and Wharton-Hood will join the boards of Standard Bank Group.

Standard Bank Group chairperson Fred Phaswana said “Sim, Ben and Peter have been deputy Group Chief Executives since 2009, demonstrating the group’s sound succession planning. The board has full confidence in their ability to lead the group through the next phase of growth”.



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