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