Absa overhauls executive to diversify management

Absa Group, South Africa’s third-biggest bank, announced sweeping changes to its executive committee after facing criticism over the lack of diversity within its management structure.

Among the changes that become effective July 1, Punki Modise, 52, will become chief strategy and sustainability officer, as Absa looks to increase its focus on environmental, social and governance opportunities. The lender is also breaking up its retail and business-banking division, which has been its biggest driver of revenue.

“Changes we announced today will really shape our organization and create an organization that is much closer to our customers,” chief executive officer Arrie Rautenbach said in a briefing Thursday morning. “It’s got a very strong commercial performance mindset.”

The bank has faced criticism from investors including Africa’s biggest fund manager after the unexpected departure of its first Black CEO last year and the appointment in March of Rautenbach raised questions about the bank’s commitment to diversity.

Companies in South Africa have been under pressure to appoint more black executives since the end of apartheid in 1994, but have made limited progress. Of the 10 largest local companies by market value, only three currently have Black CEOs in a country where four out of five people are Black, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

At its annual general meeting earlier this month, Absa conceded it had regressed on diversity and committed to making changes that would demonstrate significant progress within the next two years.

Read: Absa sees positive growth in first half of 2022

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