Absa Capital employees stage walkout after top black manager overlooked

 Phakamani Hadebe. Picture: LOANNA HOFFMANN
Phakamani Hadebe. Picture: LOANNA HOFFMANN

Black professionals at Absa Capital on Tuesday staged a walkout after a top black manager was passed over for the position of head of corporate and investment banking, according to a source close to the company.

The source said that about 20 black employees had got up and left during the announcement of leadership changes at Absa Capital headquarters in Sandton.

“The announcement made yesterday ... which was interpreted as Phakamani [Hadebe] didn’t get the nod – which shocked a lot of people – hence the anger and the walk-out at the staff meeting by black employees,” the source said.

Khaya Sithole, a former KwaZulu-Natal chaiperson of the Association for the Advancement of Black Accountants in Southern Africa, said on his Twitter page today: “Rumour has it Phakamani Hadebe has been exiled from Absa and the clever blacks have finally grown a pair and staged a walkout. Anyone know?”

“The bank’s record on transformation is not rosy ... and the argument that there are not capable and sufficiently experienced black professionals just doesn’t wash any more when things like this happen,” the source close to Absa said.

“It is the first time in my career, I have seen black professionals actually openly display their level of displeasure in this manner. Black people behaved like the Economic Freedom Fighters and walked out,” the source said.

“People are fed up ... Things are going to reach a tipping point – we can’t continue like this,” the source claimed.

David Hodnett, Barclays Africa deputy chief executive and chief executive of the group’s South African banking operations, said in an internal note to Absa staff on Tuesday morning, which City Press has seen, that Hadebe, head of client at Absa Corporate and Investment Banking, had decided to leave the bank for “personal reasons”.

The matter of Hadebe’s departure was the first point raised in Hodnett’s note.

Hadebe did not return calls or texts to his cell phone seeking comment last night. The source said Hadebe was “diplomatic” at the staff meeting called to discuss the announcement on Tuesday afternoon.

Hodnett said had been with Barclays Africa for three years “during which he has led our coverage teams in delivering significant value for our clients”.

Songezo Zibi, a Barclays Africa Group spokesperson, said Hadebe had tendered his resignation to Hodnett in March but the news of his departure was only made known to Absa staff on Tuesday.

Zibi said departure had been “extremely difficult” for most people especially for his black colleagues.

“He is a well-liked guy. People were crying and were emotional and 12 to 15 people got up and left,” he added.

Hadebe “had not been overlooked” because a number of top executive roles at Barclays Africa had been restructured last year in August due to the separation of Barclays and Barclays Africa, Zibi said.

Barclays Africa chief executive Maria Ramos told the recent parliamentary hearings, into the transformation of the financial services sector, that the bank had done some aspects of transformation well and other aspects were not making progress.

The departure of a senior black executive impacts on all levels, Zibi said. Hadebe’s departure was a “big loss” and put transformation in the spotlight, he added.

Hadebe a product of National Treasury, is a highly regarded banker. He is credited with turning around the Land Bank when he was seconded by treasury to the crisis ridden institution nearly a decade ago.

“Since joining us in 2014, Phakamani has been a valuable member of the team,” Hodnett said in the note headed “Corporate and Investment Banking (CIB) and Retail and Business Banking leadership changes”.

“His contribution has been essential to our success in establishing CIB in the market, and in driving not only the CIB strategy but also Barclays Africa growth through very challenging times.”

“Naturally we have tried to persuade Phakamani to stay, but those of you who have worked with him know that he is a man of careful consideration. Although this has been a difficult decision for him to make, his mind is made up. This is a great loss for us, but we respect his decision and wish him all the best.”

Hodnett said that effective immediately, CIB would be jointly lead by Temi Ofong and Mike Harvey.

In the conclusion of his note, Hodnett again thanked Hadebe for his “immense contribution to Barclays Africa” and “for his wise counsel, leadership and mentorship to many colleagues across the business”.

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