Finweek English Edition - - COMPANIES & INVESTMENTS -

Stan­dard Bank’s new man­age­ment s t r uc­ture works for the tightly knit man­age­ment team – but in­vestors are won­deri ng whether it will work for any­one else. The group has con­tro­ver­sially ap­pointed j o i n t - CEOs from within its own ranks to re­place Jacko Ma­ree who has re­tired af­ter 13 years in charge and 32 years at the bank.

Ma­ree, 57, h a s b e e n re­placed by two of three deputies ap­pointed in 2009: Ben Kruger and Sim Tsha­bal­ala. The former, a some­what in­tro­verted, but vastly

ex­peri- enced 54-year-old cor­po­rate banker with con­sid­er­able global ex­pe­ri­ence, joined the bank in 1985. The lat­ter is a gar­ru­lous 45-year-old Rhodes Univer­sity law grad­u­ate who signed up to Stan­dard Bank in 2000 af­ter cut­ting his teeth at the failed Real Africa Durolink. Tsha­bal­ala joined the project f inance team at SCMB, where Kruger was sec­ond in charge at the time and quickly rose through the ranks. The third deputy CEO Peter Whar­ton-Hood, has been ap­pointed chief op­er­at­ing of­fi­cer.

“Bank­ing is a club around the world,” says one fund man­ager, “and Stan­dard Bank is the club­bi­est of them all.”

That close-knit cul­ture, which has been core to the strength of Stan­dard Bank for more than a decade, was forged in the fur­nace of Ned­bank’s ul­ti­mately failed takeover in 2000. It brought to­gether the most sta­ble team in South African bank­ing. “It proved to be a posit i v e c r i s i s ,” s a y s

Ma­ree who re­placed t hen i ncum­bent Ed­die Theron at the end of 1999 to stave off the Ned­bank bid. He was to re­build Stan­dard Bank, which had been al­lowed to be­come vul­ner­a­ble to the vo­ra­cious ac­quis­i­tive ap­petite of ri­val CEO Richard Laub­scher. It was t hen Fi­nance Min­is­ter Trevor Manuel who pulled rank and blocked the bid. By then, how­ever, the Stan­dard Bank ma­chine was oiled and the key play­ers on Ma­ree’s team were in place. “It in­duced good be­hav­iour among peo­ple who might not oth­er­wise have co-op­er­ated,” he says.

That co-op­er­a­tive spirit lies at the heart of what is a unique so­lu­tion to a cu­ri­ous prob­lem. There was no ob­vi­ous sin­gle suc­ces­sor to f ill the con­sid­er­able void left by Ma­ree. Ar­guably the lead­er­ship team con­sists of too many po­ten­tial can­di­dates ca­pa­ble of lead­ing as­pects of the group but not the en­tire busi­ness. At least, not yet. For out­siders the Stan­dard Bank ar­range­ment of joint deputy CEOs has seemed some­what dys­func­tional. But it has worked for the group with clearly de­mar­cated re­spon­si­bil­i­ties lead­ing to a re­shap­ing and re­fo­cus­ing of the bank fol­low­ing its failed glob­al­i­sa­tion strat­egy.

For Ma­ree the story is clear cut. “I can’t tell you when last I made a sub­stan­tive de­ci­sion about the fu­ture of the bank. We talked about is­sues and came up with so­lu­tions to­gether,” he says re-en­forc­ing the point that the col­lab­o­ra­tion that will be crit­i­cal for

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