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Finweek English Edition - - Openers - BRUCE WHIT­FIELD brucew@fin­

SIZWE NX­AS­ANA’S ap­point­ment as CEO of FirstRand from the beginning of Jan­uary 2010 was ex­pected. The ap­point­ment of chief fi­nan­cial of­fi­cer Jo­han Burger as chief op­er­at­ing of­fi­cer came as more of a sur­prise.

Nx­as­ana’s ap­point­ment is en­tirely ap­pro­pri­ate and would have met with the ap­proval of the Reg­is­trar

of Banks, the in­dus­try reg­u­la­tor, as well as the com­pany’s founders, whose con­sid­er­able per­sonal wealth is tied to the for­tunes of the group.

Nx­as­ana, a char­tered ac­coun­tant by train­ing and a for­mer Telkom CEO, has been with the FirstRand Group for just three years.

By con­trast, Burger has been with the bank since 1986, when he worked in RMB’s trea­sury divi­sion. The new COO has also put in time at FNB and Mo­men­tum, where he was in­volved in op­er­a­tional man­age­ment be­fore be­ing ap­pointed CFO of the group in 2001. Burger knows the group in­side out and is a di­rec­tor of all its core sub­sidiaries. “I’ve been lucky,” he says, “to re­ally un­der­stand the in­tri­ca­cies of bank­ing and in­sur­ance.

FirstRand says it was Nx­as­ana who rec­om­mended Burger’s ap­point­ment to the newly cre­ated COO role. Burger’s ap­point­ment is im­me­di­ate, in an ef­fort to avert Bar­loworld-type crit­i­cism from ac­tivist in­vestors, such as the PIC and trades unions.

Nx­as­ana will take up his new post only in Jan­uary next year, when in­cum­bent Paul Har­ris steps down.

“The role of CEO in a more com­plex group is dif­fer­ent now and in­volves a lot more work with reg­u­la­tors and Gov­ern­ment,” says chair­man Lau­rie Dip­pe­naar.

The power dy­nam­ics at the new FirstRand are go­ing to be in­ter­est­ing to ob­serve. Both Dip­pe­naar and Har­ris will re­main on the board. Dip­pe­naar in­sists the new man­age­ment team will be given the room it needs to run the busi­ness.

Jo­han Burger

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