Rothschild & Co. shakes up SA management team

Trevor Manuel.
Trevor Manuel.

Rothschild & Co's South African unit said its chief executive officer for the past 13 years, Martin Kingston, would cede his role to Paul Bondi and Giles Douglas and become executive chairman as he prepares to be more involved in work aimed at supporting the country’s government.

Trevor Manuel, a former South African finance minister, will return to his position as non-executive chairman and continue to act as a senior adviser to the group, Rothschild said in a statement.

“I’ve been the CEO for 13 years and in the industry for 40 years. We felt it was time to reorganise the governance and management structure,” Kingston said Monday in an interview. “My plans are to bed down the transition. In the medium term, I will wind down my executive role. I would like to do more for South Africa outside the business.”

The management change, effective from April 1, comes after a year that Kingston describes as “fantastic” for the South African unit of the investment bank. Over the past 18 months it advised on the separation of Old Mutual into four independent business units, $2.9bn worth of black economic empowerment transactions for Vodacom and Sasol and the sale of coal mines by Anglo American.

Dust must settle after election

A repeat of 2018’s success “isn’t likely,” Kingston said. “We have a strong pipeline of transactions. We’ll still do very well.”

Business opportunities will likely be slow to materialise until South Africa goes through an election in May, which is expected to give President Cyril Ramaphosa his first electoral mandate, and until the situation in Europe clears up, he said.

“The dust is going to have to settle post May,” he said. “By the end of the third quarter and in the fourth quarter there should be some momentum.”

Kingston said the appointment of co-heads is common practice at Rothschild and in the industry, given the demands of the position. He also said that while both Bondi and Douglas are white men in a country where transformation is a business imperative, his industry finds it hard to hold on to seasoned black professionals.

“We have difficulty in retaining black South Africans who have to spend 15 to 20 years in the industry when they are in very high demand” from rivals and also have the opportunity of setting up their own businesses, he said.

“We have a strong pipeline of black South Africans coming through the system. We have to motivate them to stay.”

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