/ 20 April 2021

Absa chief executive resigns due to differences with board on future strategy

Key Finance Ministers And Central Bank Governors Hold Briefings During The G20 Summit
The Absa group on Tuesday said that it was by mutual agreement that group chief executive and director Daniel Mminele will step down, after strategic talks failed to result in common ground on the bank’s future. (Erica Canepa/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

The Absa group on Tuesday said that it was by mutual agreement that group chief executive and director Daniel Mminele will step down, after strategic talks failed to result in common ground on the bank’s future.

Mminele is set to leave the group on 30 April. 

He has described his departure as regrettable, saying that the development comes soon into his journey with the banking giant. 

“It is, however, important for the chief executive to be in complete alignment with the board on critical issues such as strategy and culture. I became enamoured of the brave, passionate and ready people of Absa and wish the group well for the future,” Mminele said.

He joined Absa in January 2020, only two months before South Africa and the world were thrust into a global pandemic that presented unplanned and unprecedented risks to the financial sector. 

According to Absa group chairperson Wendy Lucas-Bull, Mminele’s departure after just more than a year with the organisation was a reflection of varying views. 

“The parting of ways merely reflects divergent professional views and approaches, and is on a ‘no-fault’ basis. The board has conveyed to Mr Mminele its continued high regard for his competence and integrity. 

“The parties believe that this course is in the best interests of the company and Mr Mminele. This was a very difficult decision that was not reached lightly,” said Lucas-Bull.

The organisation said that during Mminele’s tenure, Absa delivered “a comprehensive customer and client relief package, and provided support and relief to public health authorities and communities respectively across all its African markets, while delivering a resilient and respectable financial performance under difficult conditions”.

A separation agreement is expected to be signed by both parties before Mminele officially steps down. The board has appointed Jason Quinn, Absa group financial director, as the interim group chief executive, with immediate effect.

Khaya Sithole, who is the Financial Sector Transformation Council board chairperson, told the Mail & Guardian that Mminele was at a disadvantage because he had had little time to gain institutional knowledge before the pandemic devastated economies and forced banks to restrategise. 

Sithole believes Absa has historically struggled with leadership transitions, and made an example of its split with Maria Ramos, when the official announcement was that she was retiring. 

He cast doubt on Ramos’s overnight retirement announcement ahead of her 60th birthday and questioned why a successor was not in place if her departure was planned. 

Ramos led the bank for 10 years, which included its split from Barclays, and throughout the 2008 global financial crisis. Announcing her planned retirement, Absa said that she had indicated a desire to step down earlier, but agreed to see the group through the separation negotiations with Barclays. 

Her retirement in 2019 left the position vacant for almost a year before Mminele joined the bank in 2020. 

Reacting to Mminele stepping aside, the Association of Black Securities and Investment Professionals (Absip) said in a statement that the development was concerning, as it came on the back of similar developments at African Bank and the Eskom Pension and  

Provident Fund earlier this year.

In January this year, African Bank chief executive Basani Maluleke announced her resignation after only three years in the position. At the Eskom Pension and  

Provident Fund, executives announced that chief executive and principal officer Linda Mateza was stepping down after only 15 months.

According to Absip: “The nature of the changes – and the abrupt manner in which they have been communicated – create a lingering impression that the leadership transitions at such institutions are not adequately and properly managed. The fact that the existing chief executives have all been black professionals of stature, with little in the way of clear explanations being provided, gives the impression that we are seeing a continuous culling of black professionals. As an advocacy organisation with a mandate to champion transformation; such developments require us to engage and interrogate with a view of understanding the underlying issues.”