New African Bank chief executive looks to expansion after industry hiatus

 ·16 Apr 2021

African Bank Holdings Ltd.’s new chief executive officer is looking at ways to accelerate a planned expansion from its roots in micro-lending to become a broader financial platform.

Kennedy Bungane was hired to head the Johannesburg-based lender this week after Basani Maluleke resigned in January.

The CEO’s appointment marks a return to the industry for the 46-year-old, who has spent the last seven years in roles such as running industrial-holding company Phembani Group.

“My first priority is to listen and hear where we are at,” he said by phone. “Our next priority would be to review our strategy and direction of travel and ensure that we can all align” with what clients are asking for.

Bungane will build on a strategy initiated after the South African central bank and six of the nation’s largest lenders stepped in to bail out the firm when parent company African Bank Investments Ltd. went into administration in 2014.

The company is unprofitable and was forced to cut staff last year amid economic turmoil caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

African Bank will continue to digitize its channels and seek partners to help grow the range of products offered to clients, Bungane said.

The company has in recent years also focused on boosting deposits and income from transaction fees.

Bungane has over 20 years of experience in the banking industry and has held top positions at Standard Bank Group Ltd. and Absa Group Ltd.

He also served as president of South Africa’s Association of Black Securities Investment Professionals and helped draft the nation’s Financial Sector Charter, created to address inequalities brought about by apartheid.

“There’s something really special about joining the transition of a bank that has, post-curatorship, been bequeathed with a clean balance sheet, significant liquidity and is well capitalized,” he said.

“What you can do with this bank is really only limited by your imagination.”

Read: FNB card data shows a big shift in spending habits in South Africa

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