Life after Sarb: Is Kuben Naidoo being lined up for Nedbank top job?
The soon-to-be former South African Reserve Bank deputy governor Kuben Naidoo would be a shoo-in at Nedbank…
Photo: Flickr/ Unu Wider
South African Reserve Bank (Sarb) deputy governors generally don’t just resign like Kuben Naidoo just did. They tend to serve their full terms, as this is a pathway to the governor job.
Naidoo, one of three deputies at the bank, is surely a possible successor to Governor Lesetja Kganyago, whose second term ends next year. (Kganyago could yet be reappointed, and at only 58 certainly has many possible years of service left).
The state of Sarb: Time for Kuben Naidoo to move on?
Some may argue that Naidoo is the most experienced of the three deputy governors. But perhaps Kganyago isn’t going anywhere …
Of course, if a better offer comes along, Naidoo would logically consider it, as would any deputy governor.
We saw this in 2019 when then deputy governor Daniel Mminele “retired” after his second five-year term.
By that point, it was an open secret that he was on the shortlist to replace Maria Ramos as CEO of Absa Group (and was heavily tipped to be the frontrunner).
Mminele was announced as the CEO in January 2020. He lasted just 460 days at Absa.
Naidoo: Three decades in public service
Naidoo has spent nearly three decades in public service, at National Treasury, the National Planning Commission and the Sarb.
Most importantly, he was appointed Registrar of Banks in 2016 and took over as CEO of the Prudential Authority upon its establishment in 2018 (it became the separate regulator for banks).
Six years in this job would certainly make him an outstanding candidate for the CEO role at one of the country’s major banks, no?
Global search for Nedbank CEO
Out of the so-called “Big Four”, Nedbank, has been searching for a CEO to replace Mike Brown who has been running the bank since 2010.
While it announced this in June, there is no rush.
It said “the board, supported by a global search firm with strong domestic presence, will commence a process to choose a successor to Brown … Nedbank has a strong track-record of effective leadership succession, and this process will consider both internal and external candidates.
“Mike, who is 57 years of age, continues to enjoy the total confidence of shareholders and the Board. He will continue in his current CE role until such time as a successor has been chosen and will retire after an appointment has been made and a suitable handover process has been completed.”
No timelines were given but one gets the sense that Nedbank would want a new CEO in place sometime in 2024.
Mminele in Nedbank chair position
The new Nedbank chair who will be leading this process?
None other than Mminele, who took over from Mpho Makwana in June. (Quite how Makwana was juggling the Nedbank chair position and that of Eskom is a mystery).
Mminele would know Naidoo well from their time together at the Reserve Bank. The recruitment process for a bank CEO, as one would imagine, is rather rigorous and the fact that they previously worked together would count for zilch.
Naidoo, as the former CEO of the Prudential Authority, would know Brown and many Nedbank executives very well, just as he knows senior leaders at Absa, Capitec, FirstRand and Standard Bank.
He is a banker, albeit one who hasn’t (yet?) worked in the private sector.
One could argue that being a CEO of a “Big Four” bank is more about politics, meetings (meetings and meetings), and “engagements” with government than much else. So, too, the chair position which differs from many other sectors in that it is practically a full-time gig.
ALSO READ: The search is on for Nedbank’s new CEO
The recruitment firm engaged by Nedbank has likely identified a long list of external candidates for the job, and there are obvious internal ones too.
Current COO Mfundo Nkuhlu and Managing Executive for Retail and Business Banking Ciko Thomas stand out. Relatively new CFO Michael Davis could be an option but replacing one about-to-retire white guy with a younger model is probably not a great look.
The mood suggests that Nedbank would do well to appoint a non-white CEO. Absa drew a fair amount of criticism when it appointed Arrie Rautenbach as CEO (to replace Mminele) in 2022.
FirstRand this month announced that Mary Vilakazi would succeed Alan Pullinger as CEO in April. Jacques Celliers will be replaced as FNB CEO by Harry Kellan.
Standard Bank has Sim Tshabalala as group CEO and Lungisa Fuzile as CEO of Standard Bank South Africa. Prior to his appointment, Fuzile was director-general at National Treasury.
‘Revolving doors’ between public and private sectors
The revolving doors between the public and private sectors exist (not only in SA!).
Naidoo could well be the latest recruit to an executive position at one of the country’s big banks. If so, let’s hope his tenure is more along the lines of Fuzile’s (five years, and counting, at SBSA), rather than Mminele’s!
We’ll know soon enough. Naidoo’s official/effective departure will be announced in “due course” and he will need to serve gardening leave for six months before taking on any new role.