FirstRand chief steps down two years early

2015-03-08 17:00

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FirstRand chief executive Sizwe Nxasana has announced he will step down in September, almost two years ahead of his scheduled retirement in 2017.

Nxasana, who has overseen FirstRand’s massive growth during his tenure as CEO, will be replaced by his deputy, Johan Burger.

Like predecessor Paul Harris, Nxasana leaves FirstRand on a high note, with the bank flourishing under his unassuming but determined leadership, building its market share and earnings through fewer bad debts and the creation of new products.

While earlier than expected, Nxasana’s departure is part of a long-term succession plan, which enables the bank to “grow its own timber” and appoint its leadership from within its own ranks.

Nxasana became FirstRand CEO in 2009 after serving as a nonexecutive director from 2003. The bank has flourished under his tenure, with full-year profit climbing by 24% last year and net income rising to R18.4?billion.

Nxasana said he believed that, after five years as CEO of the group, it was “time to step down”.

He said the group had made great progress implementing its strategy – which had been jointly driven by Burger.

Burger’s appointment, along with new deputy, Rand Merchant Bank chief executive Alan Pullinger, “perpetuates a very successful partnership model”.

Nxasana also proved an excellent chief executive at Telkom during his seven-year tenure, which ended with his resignation to move to FirstRand in 2005.

He was responsible for listing Telkom

on the JSE in 2003, with the share price trebling from the time of its listing to when he left.

The Durban-born chartered accountant matriculated at Mariannhill High School and completed his bachelor of commerce degree at the University of Fort Hare after abandoning his initial studies in marketing.

After a time at PricewaterhouseCoopers and the Small Business Development Corporation, Nxasana in 1989 started KwaZulu-Natal’s first black-owned auditing practice, Sizwe & Co, with trade unions, community organisations and emerging black businesses among his early clientele.

In 1996, he became a founding partner in NkonkiSizweNtsaluba, the first black-owned national accounting firm.

Nxasana has also served as a nonexecutive director for a wide array of financial services concerns, including the NBS, Boland Bank and the Development Bank of SA.

He served as chairperson of the Mesele-Hoskens Insurance Group.

He was chairperson and then national president of the Barclays Africa Group between 1991 and 1998. Nxasana also served as chairperson of the SA Revenue Service’s audit committee from 1995 to 2006.

He is understood to have come to FirstRand’s rescue over First National Bank’s political faux pas in 2013, when it featured an advertisement in which a variety of young South Africans criticised government and advocated activism.

Nxasana was reported to have apologised to the ANC over the advert, in which a youngster referred to Minister of Basic Education Angie Motshekga as “brainless”.

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