Alexander Forbes is expected to announce replacements for positions left vacant by the resignations of group executives. File Photo: IOL

JOHANNESBURG – The mass exodus of senior management at Alexander Forbes is heating up with the group expected to announce the departure of Tony Powis, the chief executive of corporate and employee benefits on Wednesday. 

The group is also expected to announce replacements for positions left vacant by the resignations of other group executive members.

The exit of Powis, who only joined the group in January 2018, follows the shock ouster of previous group chief executive Andrew Darfoor in September. Darfoor’s ouster was quickly followed by the resignations of chief financial officer Naidene Ford-Hoon, group risk officer Vishnu Naicker, chief human resource officer Christian Schaub and chief executive at Alexander Forbes investments Leon Greyling.

Two sources with intimate knowledge of the resignations said the executives were being purged because of their close proximity to the group’s previous turnaround strategy entitled “Ambition 2022” that is now under question. A source said Powis tendered his resignation in December.  

“The resignation of the former group executive members was coerced. They were all given a choice to resign or be fired with a litany of allegations. All have chosen to simply resign and move on,” the source said.

“The purge of 6 Group Executive members in a matter of months (CEO, CFO, CRO, CHRO and CEO Investments, and now Powis) suggests a “rift between the architects and executioners” of the previous strategy (Ambition 2022) and the board” with the share price now trading at almost 3 year lows.

The group in 2017 under the stewardship of Darfoor and then chairperson Sello Moloko refined its strategy, focusing on customer-centricity and expanding its retail ambitions in a broad pan-African growth strategy.  However, this strategy did not enjoy the support of African Rainbow Capital, despite solid operating results announced in the period to September 2018 under Darfoor’s watch.

Alexander Forbes chief executive Dawie de Villiers could not confirm or deny Powis's departure and said the company would make necessary announcements today.  However, he denied that the group had forced senior management who served under Darfoor to resign.

“There is negative sense of a clean out and of governance problems. But I can assure that the company is in a great place. It (resignations) was individual decisions by these people,” De Villiers said.

“I am busy building a business for the new strategic place we want to be with a positive culture, and I am awarding people with these positions that are open, who are part of the Forbes DNA that understand Forbes clients and who want to take the group forward.”   

Dawie stressed that the vacant positions would be filled by internal candidates.

Asief Mohamed, the chief investment officer of Aeon Investment Management, said he did not sympathise with the executives who left Forbes. “Generally, I do not have high regard for male management at South Africa, as they climbed the corporate ladder when 90 percent of black people were kept away from competing with them."

Some of the executives who left the group had not responded to queries by the time BR went to print. 

Darfoor, who is challenging his dismissal at the CCMA, could not be reached for comment on the mass resignations following his exit from the group.