Riaan Stassen’s first priority when he retires at the end of December is to get fit.
“I’d like to be able to run a half-marathon in under 90 minutes,” Stassen tells Business Report after thinking about it for a few minutes. He adds: “For the last 13 years I’ve been 100 percent involved in Capitec, so I haven’t really had time to plan what I will do from next January, but hopefully I’ll have another good 10 years.”
Stassen, who will be remaining on the Capitec board, challenges the suggestion that now is not a good time to retire for the chief executive of a rapidly growing bank with a high exposure to unsecured lending.
“I don’t think there is ever a ‘good time’ for a chief executive to retire, but over the last 13 years we have developed a very stable executive team and built a very solid foundation. I’m leaving the bank in very good hands.”
Those who have followed Stassen’s impressive career as the head of the fastest-growing bank in the country reckon it will not take the 60-year-old too long to achieve his 90-minute target.
One thing he will not be doing is starting up a financial business with fellow Stellenbosch resident Michael Jordaan. Coincidentally Jordaan, who was regarded as a major contributor to FNB’s recent strong performance, will be “stepping down” from the FirstRand unit’s top position at the end of December.
“It’s not easy to start a new business,” explains the soft-spoken Stassen, who has maintained a low-key media profile even after Capitec’s JSE listing in February 2002. “I enjoy running the bank but not this [media] part of the job,” says Stassen, who describes himself as an introvert. “It [interviewing] has always been painful.”
Ironically, his hesitance when it comes to publicly “spinning” the Capitec story may have enhanced the considerable regard with which Stassen is held in the investment community. It appears to have boosted the perception of trust around the brand, which is invariably a key aspect of successful banking, particularly in a difficult and volatile environment.
However, his desire to avoid public exposure has created a situation in which not only is Stassen little known outside the investment community, there is even less known about his team.
Stassen is keen to stress that Capitec “is not a single person operation… it’s run by a team, I happen to be the team leader”.
He adds: “I don’t think my retirement is a big loss for the bank,” even though the bank’s own press release noted that Stassen was “at the heart of the management team that established Capitec in 2000”.
However, Stassen points out that 49-year-old Gerrie Fourie, who will become chief executive in January next year, has also been on the executive team since 2000. Although not well known to the media, Fourie, the chief operating officer, has been deeply involved in running the business and is known to investors, Stassen says.
It would be extremely difficult to find someone who is as familiar with Stassen’s management style as Fourie. The two men have worked in adjacent offices and have shared the same personal assistant for the past 13 years.
Before joining Capitec in 2000, Fourie, who has a BCom in financial management and an MBA, worked for Distell, which is where Stassen also worked until he joined Boland Bank in 1997. – Business Report