VENTURES AFRICA – Standard Bank Group, Absa Group, FirstRand, Investec and Nedbank are the five biggest banks in Africa, with a combined asset base of $535 billion. Yet how much is really known about the CEOs that run these African powerhouses? Ventures Africa takes a look at the five biggest CEOs in African banking.
Jacko Maree, Standard Bank Group
Maree, 53, is a former Rhodes scholar and the CEO of the Standard Bank Group, Africa’s largest financial services conglomerate. The $23 billion bank operates in 33 different countries including South Africa, Nigeria, Turkey, Russia, Argentina and Jersey. Maree is also chairman of The Banking Association in South Africa and a former director of the International Monetary Conference. He has been named South Africa’s most trusted CEO three times. Maree is all about adapting, with Standard Bank recently changing policy and focusing more on Africa. In the past 18 months though, the bank has sold an operation in Russia and is selling off another in Argentina. It cut staff in London, where it once employed more than 2,000 to about 1,200, and it more than halved employees in Hong Kong and looks set to slash headcount in Brazil. At the same time, the company says it’s opening new branches in key markets in Africa such as Nigeria where it added 145 new branches in the past year and a half to total 175. It says it will have 200 by February 2013. “You have to change the business model to [suit] what’s going on in the industry,” says Maree.
Maria Ramos, Absa Group
53-year-old South African Ramos heads up Absa Group, South Africa’s largest bank. Absa is majority-owned by Barclays and posted sizeable profits last year. She is in charge of the integration of Barclays and Absa’s African units in order to further its “One Bank in Africa” strategy and push regional growth. Ramos joined Absa in 2009, having previously had a rich career in the public sector, serving as Group CEO of Transnet Limited, the state-owned rail, pipeline and ports agency. She also served as South Africa’s director general of the National Treasury in the first post-apartheid government. She is married to former finance minister Trevor Manuel. Ramos has spotted an opportunity to team with Barclays and take advantage of their network to reach more people across Africa. The two are engaged in discussions about a possible combination of the majority of the Barclays Africa operations with Absa by 2013. The move, which is in line with the strategy to operate as one bank in Africa, is expected to involve the combination of Barclays’ interests in Botswana, Ghana, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and the Indian Ocean with Absa, with Barclays Bank PLC remaining as the majority shareholder of the combined African operations.
Sizwe Nxasana, FirstRand
Nxasana, who succeeded Paul Harris as CEO of FirstRand in January, is South Africa’s best-paid bank chief after the bank boosted his remuneration to $6.4 million. The 53-year-old received more than double the 2009 remuneration of South Africa’s second- highest paid bank CEO, Standard Bank Group’s Jacko Maree. He served as Chief Executive Officer of Telkom SA Limited from 1998 to 2005 and National President of Absa Group Limited from 1991 to 1994. He holds aBachelor of Accounting Science and is a Chartered Accountant. Nxasana is overseeing a acquisition strategy at FirstRand, having recently announced that it was to buy a 75 percent shareholding in Merchant Bank Ghana (MBG).
Stephen Koseff, Investec
Currently under pressure to cut costs at the bank, Koseff is paid a cool $5.3 million per year. The 60-year-old took over as CEO in 1996, after being the No. 2 executive for eight years. Since Investec’s shares started trading on the London Stock Exchange in 2002, he has spent $1.2 billion on three all-stock acquisitions in Britain, including the 2007 purchase of subprime mortgage provider Kensington Group Plc, investment manager Rensburg Sheppards Plc in 2010 and stockbroker Evolution Group Plc last year. He is the most under pressure of all the CEOs, and this year had his compensation cut 87 percent and his bonus denied after profit dropped and returns hit a record low.
Michael Brown, Nedbank
Mike Brown became Nedbank CEO in February 2010, succeeding the retiring Tom Boardman. Prior to that he was the group’s chief financial officer and an executive director, holding those positions since June 2004. The bank recently announced a 25 per cent rise in first half earnings and said it was on course to meet its growth targets for the full year. The group’s headline earnings rose to 3.5 billion rand ($419 million), up from 2.8 billion rand for the same period the previous year, while headline earnings per share increased by 23.5 percent. Brown said said the results were underpinned “by good revenue growth, prudent provisioning, responsible expense management and increased capital and liquidity ratios”. He has been a vocal critic of the Basel III capital requirements, saying: “In its present format it is unworkable in a developing market, such as South Africa, which also happens to have a developed mortgage market.”
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