No bad blood - they're just moving on, says Sanlam CEO about mass executive departures

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Die Sanlam-kantoor in Sandton, Johannesburg
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  • Sanlam CEO Paul Hanratty says there is nothing untoward about the stepping down of more executives in the group.
  • The CEOs of Santam, the Sanlam Investment Group and Satrix have announced plans to step down soon.
  • But Hanratty says they just want to do something different - there is no differing of opinions.

Sanlam CEO Paul Hanratty says recently announced management departures are just a function of executives wanting to do something different and not a sign of any instability or not seeing eye to eye. 

Sanlam announced in its operational update on Wednesday that the CEO of the Sanlam Investment Group, Robert Roux, has signalled that he wants to retire by the end of this year. Roux has been with Sanlam for over 22 years and held several senior management roles.

Last week Santam announced that its CEO Lizé Lambrechts will step down from her position in 2022. She's been in the CEO seat since January 2015. In addition, the CEO of Satrix, Helena Conradie, will also be stepping down from her position in October. She's been involved in Satrix for 20 years and has been the CEO for almost eight of those.

With all these departures announced within a space of two weeks, some shareholders are starting to worry, said UBS equity analyst Michael Christelis during Sanlam's call with analysts on Wednesday evening. 

The above-mentioned announcements follow recent dramatic CEO exits at Absa and African Bank. But Hanratty said in Sanlam's case, there were no differing views on strategy - or anything else, for that matter.

Instead, he said he likened Sanlam's situation to that of sports teams known for stability and experienced players where most of their stars reach retirement age around the same time.

"I think Sanlam finds itself a little bit in that territory. I've always admired the stability and the experience of the Sanlam management team. But of course, stability and experience, if you roll them for long enough, also means that at some point you get to a point where a significant number of people start reaching retirement age," said Hanratty.

Much talent in the company

Hanratty said that while some of these may be seen as early retirement, executives don't adhere to a fixed retirement age concept any more. Instead, they want to do something else while they are still able to.

"One doesn't want to get into people's individual circumstances, but I think it's fair to say that both Lizé and Robert are keen to move into a different space, and this is something that we just need to deal with. We've got a huge amount of talent and depth in the company," he said.

Hanratty added that Sanlam was "very well placed" to deal with the succession of these individuals because they've announced their intentions to retire well ahead of time, giving the group time to make the leadership transition as smooth as possible. 

"In Lizé's case, she's committed to staying until whenever she needs to stay into next year. So that gives us quite a bit of scope to have some overlap if we need it," he added.

He said Sanlam was hoping that when these executives move to less demanding careers, the group will still be able to tap into their skills in one way or the other. 

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