Standard Bank hands over reins to first sole black CEO

Standard Bank sole CEO Sim Tshabalala. (File photo: Gallo Images)
Standard Bank sole CEO Sim Tshabalala. (File photo: Gallo Images)

Johannesburg - Standard Bank [JSE:SBK] appointed  Sim Tshabalala as sole chief executive officer (CEO), ending a dual role he shared with Ben Kruger, and making him the first black person to lead Africa’s largest lender independently.

Kruger, 58, will step down as joint-CEO immediately and continue as an executive director, reporting to Tshabalala, 49, Johannesburg-based Standard Bank said in a statement on Tuesday.

The joint leadership structure was necessary as part of the company’s management succession plan when it was introduced in 2013, the lender said.

Tshabalala becomes the only black person to lead one of South Africa’s biggest banks since Sizwe Nxasana retired as the head of FirstRand [JSE:FSR] in March 2015.

President Jacob Zuma has criticised lenders, including Barclays Africa [JSE:BGA], for doing too little to boost black participation in their companies since apartheid ended in 1994. In the past decade, all but Nedbank’s [JSE:NED] board regressed on racial diversity.

“The joint CEO structure worked very well,” said Adrian Cloete, banks analyst at PSG Wealth in Cape Town.

“Most shareholders are usually comfortable with a single CEO, but I don’t think that this should be cast in stone. As the senior executives at Standard Bank have been together a long time and have a great working relationship, I don’t expect any major changes in strategy.”

'Well qualified'

Standard Bank rose 0.7% to R164 as of 10:17 in Johannesburg. The share has gained 8.1% this year, making it the best-performing lender after Capitec Bank [JSE:CPI]. The stock has climbed almost 41% since Tshabalala and Kruger took over, lagging a 48% increase in the six-member FTSE/JSE Africa Banks Index.

Kruger was seen as the older, more experienced counterpart and the big issue in 2013 was restructuring and scaling back Standard Bank’s international footprint, including its London offices and other developing countries, Patrice Rassou, head of equities for Sanlam [JSE:SLM] Investment Management in Cape Town, said. 

Standard Bank sold off units in Argentina, Russia, Turkey and the UK to focus on its operations in Africa.

With that done, “the new strategy is well set, focusing on Africa rather than emerging markets,” he said. “Sim used to run the Africa division 10 years ago, so is well qualified for this.”

In his new role, Kruger will contribute toward the governance of the group and the African region, provide guidance over the “continued digitiSation of the group” and deepen Standard Bank’s relationship with its strategic partner and 20% shareholder, Industrial & Commercial Bank of China, the company said.

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