South Africa’s Lone Female Bank Chief, Basani Maluleke, Quits 

Commercial buildings and offices stand on the city skyline as night falls, as seen from the 50th floor of the Carlton Centre, in Johannesburg, South Africa. Photographer: Waldo Swiegers/Bloomberg
Commercial buildings and offices stand on the city skyline as night falls, as seen from the 50th floor of the Carlton Centre, in Johannesburg, South Africa. Photographer: Waldo Swiegers/Bloomberg

(Bloomberg) -- South Africa’s only female banking boss, Basani Maluleke, has quit as chief executive officer of African Bank Holdings Ltd.

With the departure of Maluleke after only three years in the position, none of South Africa’s top lenders will have a female head. The only other woman who has led a bank as CEO was Maria Ramos, who was at the helm of Absa Group Ltd. for a decade until February 2019.

Absa has also had two chairwomen. Gill Marcus was in the role from 2007 until 2009, before becoming central bank governor, and Wendy Lucas-Bull will step down at the end of March 2022 after eight years as chair.

Maluleke, also the first Black woman to lead a major bank in South Africa, will leave the board of African Bank on April 30, “to pursue other career opportunities,” the lender said in a statement Monday. Chief Financial Officer Gustav Raubenheimer will take over as acting CEO.

South African banks’ leadership roles have been dominated by White men and it’s only in the past decade that the lenders have started to appoint women to try and rectify the imbalance.

Collapsed Bank

After African Bank collapsed in 2014, mostly due to what an investigation described as “hubris” by its then CEO Leon Kirkinis, Raubenheimer was appointed the chief financial officer for the viable assets that were spun out of the failed lender.

The so-called good bank survived and started to redeem some of the outstanding debt while garnering enough of a reputation that it was able to sell bonds again.

African Bank was rescued by the country’s central bank, which then persuaded the lender’s peers, including Standard Bank Group Ltd. and Absa, to step in with an extra equity injection to protect the nation’s financial system when it went into administration. This placed African Bank in the awkward position where its competitors are also its shareholders. Maluleke said in March 2019 a takeover or listing could be considered as a way out for these lenders.

After being appointed CEO in 2018, Maluleke embarked on a strategy of offering low-cost digital products to help get the lender back on its feet.

African Bank, which specializes in lending to low-income earners, reported for its first half to March that non-performing loans were rising and it had swung into losses after a post-Covid-19 adjustment. While retail customer deposits more than doubled, in line with the lender’s strategy, impaired provisions had also climbed amid the coronavirus pandemic. As of end-June, it had a total capital adequacy ratio of 39.9%, which is above minimum required regulatory levels.