Old Mutual appoints new chief executive to replace axed Moyo
DURBAN - Old Mutual has appointed Iain Williamson as group chief executive, creating more certainty for the group following the protracted legal battle with his axed predecessor, Peter Moyo.
Old Mutual, the 175-year-old African financial services group, on Friday appointed Williamson with immediate effect, bringing to an end an extensive search by the board.
Old Mutual had been without a permanent leader for more than a year following Moyo’s suspension last May and his dismissal a month later over a conflict of interest.
The group said Moyo had wrongfully pocketed R30million in dividend payments linked to NMT Capital, the investment company he co-founded.
Old Mutual board chairperson Trevor Manuel said the group was delighted at Williamson’s appointment, as he had steered Old Mutual through some significant leadership and operational challenges over the past year as an acting chief executive.
“His steady hand, strategic mind and authentic leadership style have been both refreshing and truly welcomed. We wish to thank Iain for his contribution during this time, and we look forward to working with him as he leads the embedding of the group’s vision and purpose of championing mutually positive futures every day,” Manuel said.
Williamson, an actuary by profession, is a seasoned executive, having built up nearly 30 years’ experience across the Old Mutual Group.
Williamson joined the group in 1993 and has held various roles across employee benefits.
He was appointed Old Mutual Emerging Markets’ finance director in 2015, and was appointed chief operating officer in 2017, before serving as interim chief executive when Moyo was dismissed.
Aeon Investment Management’s chief investment officer, Asief Mohamed, said on Friday that Williamson’s appointment was positive for continuity for the group.
“The disruption of Peter Moyo’s departure and subsequent turmoil was not good for the stability of the executive management team and morale. Iain Williamson’s knowledge of Old Mutual could be good for the group in the long term, as it creates more certainty,” Mohamed said.
Moyo took legal action against Old Mutual to challenge his dismissal, but in January the Johannesburg High Court upheld an appeal by Old Mutual against a judgment delivered in July last year to temporarily reinstate Moyo.
In dismissing Moyo, Old Mutual cited a “material breakdown in trust and confidence” over an alleged conflict of interest, a charge that Moyo has repeatedly denied.
The legal battle between Moyo and Old Mutual weighed heavily on the company’s image and share price.
Jordan Weir, a trader at Citadel, said on Friday that Williamson’s appointment was good news for Old Mutual, given the uncertainty and negativity generated by the Moyo legal saga.
“Williamson’s history, experience and loyalty to the group since 1993 mean that his appointment at this time is more than justified.
“Investors will be relieved now that Old Mutual has officially taken steps towards strengthening its business in terms of leadership by appointing a chief executive who has proven his loyalty to the group, and is strongly aligned with the company's various stakeholders and shareholders,” Weir said.
However, Weir cautioned that the only risk or disadvantage posed by this appointment, “if any, is the potential for further disruption from Moyo through means of legal interference”. Additional reporting by Dineo Faku