Bling it on

What does Maria Ramos’s ap­point­ment to the Richemont board mean?

Finweek English Edition - - INSIGHT -

LET ME START BY lay­ing my cards firmly on the ta­ble. What fol­lows is pure con­jec­ture. Be­fore you ma­lign the en­tire jour­nal­ism pro­fes­sion as be­ing like that any­way, please al­low me to qual­ify that state­ment. You do have to be en­thralled by the re­cent an­nounce­ment by lux­ury goods group Richemont that it’s nom­i­nated econ­o­mist and for­mer se­nior pub­lic ser­vant Maria Ramos to its board. Ramos hap­pens to be the cur­rent CEO at Absa.

Ramos, the for­mer di­rec­tor-gen­eral at the Na­tional Trea­sury who later ran Transnet, has been boss at Absa for just on two years and is the only CEO of a South African Big Four bank (as far as I can re­call) with an ex­ter­nal board ap­point­ment on a listed com­pany.

Stephen Koseff, CEO of SA’s fifth big­gest bank, has a seat on the Bidvest board, but it’s a prac­tice the Reg­is­trar of Banks prob­a­bly tol­er­ates more than ac­tively sup­ports. For ex­am­ple, newly ap­pointed Stan­dard Bank chair­man Fred Phaswana gave up sev­eral of his ex­ter­nal com­mit­ments to take on that job; and when Tom Board­man took over Ned­bank and was of­fered pre­de­ces­sor Richard Laub­scher’s seat on the Old Mu­tual plc board he de­clined in favour of fo­cus­ing his en­er­gies on the task at hand. One of the rea­sons put for­ward by Stan­dard Bank for for­mer chair­man Derek Cooper’s gen­er­ous golden hand­shake was that the job was prac­ti­cally full time and pre­cluded him from earn­ing sig­nif­i­cant in­come as a di­rec­tor else­where.

Ramos’s ap­point­ment while head­ing a Big Four bank is dis­tinctly un­usual and in­vites fur­ther scrutiny. Her peers are bat­ten­ing down the hatches and fo­cus­ing their en­er­gies on sourc­ing hard to come by rev­enues, con­cen­trat­ing on cost con­tain­ment and look­ing at the state of their clients’ bal­ance sheets with some trep­i­da­tion

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