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