JOHANNESBURG - Absa’s chief executive officer Maria Ramos will retire at the end of February when she turns 60 and becomes eligible to do so, the banking group said on Tuesday.
Ramos has been group CEO since 2009 and has led Absa through significant milestones including acquiring Barclays’s Africa subsidiary banks; the sell-down and the start of separation from Barclays and establishing a new strategy as a standalone financial institution.
Absa said its board had appointed René van Wyk as interim chief executive with effect from March 1.
“With the separation on track and our new strategy as a standalone financial institution in place, Maria feels that this is the right time to retire,” Absa said.
Absa must appoint a black woman as it's new CEO, change the game up a bit in regards to commercial banks!#MariaRamos
Van Wyk was previously registrar of banks at the South African Reserve Bank until May 2016. He spent 19 years at Nedbank, including as executive director of risk for the then listed Nedcor Investment Bank, and was also CEO of Imperial Bank. Absa said van Wyk would be classified as an executive director with effect from February 1.
"Absa will announce a permanent appointment to the position of group chief executive in due course, following the finalization of the ongoing process of appointing a new CEO, and the requisite regulatory approvals," the bank said.
Absa Group chairperson Wendy Lucas-Bull said with Ramos at the helm, the company had changed from being a South African bank to a pan-African financial services provider with a footprint in ten countries across the continent.
Ramos said had her intention to step down earlier had been curtailed by Barclays Plc's 2016 decision to sell down its controlling stake in Absa, a unique set of circumstances that required continuity.
"So with my coming 60th birthday I have made the decision to leave the position open for a new chief executive to lead the group on the next leg of its exciting journey," she said.
Under her leadership, Absa acquired Barclays’s eight African subsidiaries for R18.3 billion in 2013, the largest African acquisition ever by a South African bank. She led the separation negotiations with Barclays which resulted in a R12.6 billion upfront contribution plus R2 billion earmarked for black economic empowerment.
More on Maria Ramos:
Maria Da Conceiƈão Das Neves Calha Ramos, born on February 22, 1959, in Lisbon, Portugal has been Group Chief Executive since 2009. She has led the Group through significant milestones including acquiring Barclays’s Africa subsidiary banks; the sell-down and the start of separation from Barclays, establishing a new strategy as a standalone financial institution as well as a brand refresh in South Africa.
In 1983, When she was a student she heard about a men-only Barclays Bank scholarship. She pushed for the scholarship and won the Barclays Bank Graduate Scholarship. In 1992, She also has her Bachelor in Commerce and Masters of Science in Economics from the University of London.
Between, 1989 and 1991, She worked as an economics lecturer at the University of South Africa. Ramos has worked for various companies with the business sector. She has held executive positions in Sanlam Ltd, Transnet, SABMiller and Remgro Ltd.
Between 1990 and 1994 she worked as an economist in the African National Congress's’ Department of Economic Planning. She held office in the National Treasury as the Director General between 1996 and 2003.
Ramos said, "It had never been my intention to stay this long, as I have always believed that a CEO’s tenure should allow for a regular refresh. My earlier intentions to step down were curtailed by Barclays PLC’s 2016 decision to sell down their controlling stake, a unique set of circumstances that required continuity. So with my coming 60th birthday, I have made the decision to leave the position open for a new Chief Executive to lead the Group on the next leg of its exciting journey.”
“I would like to thank members of the Board and Exco, past and present, for all the support they have provided over the years. I am also grateful for the opportunity to lead an organization with committed colleagues,” she said.