South Africa’s Lone Female Bank Chief, Basani Maluleke, Quits 

South Africa’s only female banking boss, Basani Maluleke, quit unexpectedly as chief executive officer of African Bank Holdings Ltd. after only three years in the job.

Maluleke, also the first Black woman to lead a major lender in South Africa, will leave on April 30 “to pursue other career opportunities,” the company said in a statement Monday. Chief Financial Officer Gustav Raubenheimer will take over as acting CEO.

South Africa’s financial sector leadership ranks have been dominated by White men, and it’s just in the past decade that the lenders have started to try and rectify the imbalance. The only other woman besides Maluleke to lead a bank as CEO is Maria Ramos, who was at the helm of Absa Group Ltd. for a decade until February 2019.

African Bank’s strategy to get through the Covid-19 pandemic will remain in place, Chairman Thabo Dloti said in an interview, with a fundraising and finding a new CEO among the priorities. Shareholders agreed last September to provide as much as 8 billion rand ($480 million) in backing to help the lender raise funds.

No Disruption

“I do not think the CEO change will interfere in our capital-raising efforts, which is important to the bank,” Dloti said. “We are diversifying our funding lines and products.”

After African Bank collapsed in 2014, in part due to what an investigation described as “hubris” by its then CEO Leon Kirkinis, Raubenheimer was appointed the chief financial officer for the viable assets that were spun out of the failed lender.

The so-called good bank survived and started to redeem some of its outstanding debt while garnering enough of a reputation that it was able to sell bonds again.

African Bank was rescued by the country’s central bank, which then persuaded the lender’s peers, including Standard Bank Group Ltd. and Absa, to step in with an extra equity injection to protect the nation’s financial system when it went into administration.

This placed African Bank in the awkward position where its competitors are also its shareholders. After being appointed CEO in 2018, Maluleke embarked on a strategy of offering low-cost digital products to help get the lender back on its feet. In 2019, she said a takeover or listing could be considered as a way out for its investors.

“Transformation is important for African Bank, given what the bank represents and from a customer and stakeholder point of view,” Dloti said, when asked about a new CEO candidate. “There is a process we are following and a set of criteria and we hope to find the right people who can tick all those boxes.”

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