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By Vukosi Maluleke

Digital Journalist

Here’s what you need to know about FirstRand’s first female CEO Mary Vilakazi

Mary Vilakazi will take over as FirstRand Limited's CEO effective from April 2024.

FirstRand Limited has made history by appointing its first woman CEO in the bank’s long history.

The Group announced on Tuesday, significant changes to its leadership effective from April 2024.

Most notably, FirstRand has taken transformation a notch higher by appointing Mary Vilakazi, who becomes the first woman to take the reigns and steer the financial institution forward.

Vilakazi, the group’s current Chief Operating Officer (COO) will succeed outgoing CEO Alan Pullinger, whose tenure at the bank spans over 26 years.

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Here are some things worth knowing about FirstRand’s first female CEO:

Strong start

Vilakazi started her career at accounting firm PwC, where she spent eight years sharpening her skills – specialising in auditing of financial service entities, eventually becoming one of the firm’s youngest partners in 2005.

The incumbent CEO has strong business credentials having ventured into various entrepreneurial projects, which include running an advisory services firm.

She has served in multiple executive and non-executive directorship positions, and was the deputy CEO of MMI Holdings where she previously served as CFO.

Back in 2016, Vilakazi’s work and leadership earned her a WEF Young Global leader nomination.

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FirstRand journey

Vilakazi’s journey with FirstRand Limited started in 2018 when she came onboard as the Group’s COO.

As COO, she simultaneously served as FirstRand’s executive director responsible for diversification strategies in insurance and investment management, as well as a trustee of the FirstRand Empowerment Foundation.

The incumbent CEO believes the private sector has a valuable role to play in unlocking significant value for societal benefit, through collaboration with government and other social partners.

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Excited to lead

Welcoming the news, Vilakazi said she was excited to take on the FirstRand’s top leadership role.

“I am delighted to be entrusted to lead one of the largest and most profitable financial institutions in Africa,” Vilakazi said.

“Our portfolio of leading brands, top-quality talent, unique and long-standing culture of empowerment and accountability, and relentless focus on shareholder value creation will continue to underpin the group’s success on my watch,” she said.

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