Absa Group Chief Executive Maria Ramos will retire at the end of February 2019 when she turns 60, the bank announced on Tuesday morning.
"Maria has been group chief executive for 10 years and has led the group through significant milestones, including the aftermath of the global financial crisis and acquiring the Barclays Africa subsidiary banks in 2013. She had indicated a desire to step down earlier, but agreed to see the group through the separation negotiations with Barclays, the ensuing sell-down and key separation milestones," the bank said.
Absa shares rallied the most among its Johannesburg-based peers on Tuesday in the wake of Ramos’s pending exit. Absa, once the nation’s largest mortgage lender, fell behind after Britain’s Barclays acquired control in 2005.
Now that the UK bank has sold down its stake, Absa is plotting how to play catch up in a country with sluggish economic growth and an unemployment rate of more than 27%.
"For a long time she was doing what Barclays wanted to," Harry Botha, a banking analyst at Avior Capital Markets in Cape Town, said by phone. "She presided over Absa while Barclays destroyed the retail franchise."
Ramos, who will turn 60 in February, led the lender for 10 years, and will be replaced as interim CEO by René van Wyk from March 1, the company said in a statement on Tuesday. With the separation from Barclays on track “and our new strategy as a standalone financial institution in place, Maria feels that this is the right time to retire.”
When asked at an interview in Davos last week on whether she plans to retire, Ramos said: “I made a commitment and when I do something I do it completely and totally and when the time comes to do something else I will think about that.”
The Absa board said it would announce a permanent appointment to the position of group chief executive in "due course, following the conclusion of the ongoing, rigorous selection process and the requisite regulatory approvals".
"The boards wish to thank Maria for a decade of dedicated service to our group and wish her all the best in her future endeavours," the bank said.