THE announcement that Sim Tshabalala will be flying solo at the controls of Africa’s biggest lender, Standard Bank, has been greeted with delight by black business organisations, the government and others keen to see blacks making headway at major South African companies.
For three years Tshabalala was joint CEO with Standard Bank stalwart Ben Kruger, who has been deployed to another executive role in the group and will now report to Tshabalala. At the age of 49, Tshabalala becomes the only black CEO at the head of one of SA’s biggest banks since Sizwe Nxasana retired from FirstRand in March 2015. Minister of Finance Malusi Gigaba was one of the first to express his delight at the announcement yesterday, an indication of how seriously the government wants black executives to rise to the top of the country’s major institutions.
“As one of the leaders of the so-called big four banks, this is an affirmation of the capacity of black professionals, and a championing story for transformation in South Africa’s financial sector,” Gigaba said. “Along with the work that is ongoing in Parliament to address the slow pace of transformation in the financial sector, Tshabalala’s appointment comes as a step in the right direction.”
The Black Management Forum (BMF), which is at the forefront of advocating and lobbying for transformation in corporate SA, was quick to fire off a congratulatory note, with president Mncane Mthunzi saying: “We are excited about this announcement. Standard Bank has shown that it regards transformation as a business imperative and is making concerted and deliberate efforts in ensuring that the transformation gains are not reversed.” Transformation expert Dumai Qabule told The New Age: “This shows that black people can stand on their own.”
Black pressure groups and trade unions have consistently raised their voices for the inclusion of black individuals in top corporate positions, particularly in the banking sector. “Sim will take the bank to greater heights and we hope other corporates will learn from Standard Bank and do the same. People need to start having confidence in black people and black talent,” BMF deputy president Dumisani Mpati said.
But he said that one person at the top was not enough and that companies needed to promote black talent throughout their ranks. Tshabalala holds a Masters in Law degree from the University of Notre Dame in Australia and has been with Standard Bank for 19 years in executive roles.