The decision by Investec to appoint joint group chief executives from April 1 is a wholesale compromise dressed up as a ‘win-win’. That it’s chosen to appoint chairman Fani Titi and CEO of Investec Asset Management Hendrik du Toit as CEOs designate, I would argue, shows that the group’s management succession plan was not as smooth as the board perhaps had hoped.
The group already has a strong decentralised structure, albeit a complex one, with global heads of each of its three franchises (Specialist Banking, Wealth & Investment and Asset Management), as well as its two primary geographies, the UK and South Africa (alongside support heads).
While this structure has evolved in recent years – and outgrown the bank built by Stephen Koseff (CEO), Bernard Kantor (MD) and Glynn Burger (group risk and finance director) over the last four decades – in many ways, the group has been built in Koseff’s image. To say that he has a uniquely strong personality would be an understatement.
In his (and Kantor’s) place, come two leaders cut from a different cloth whom we are told by Koseff in the lengthy succession announcement have “complementary skills”, with zero indication of what those are, nor how they will delineate their roles. Contrast this with Standard Bank who in the announcement accompanying their unusual appointment of Sim Tshabalala and Ben Kruger to succeed Jacko Maree in 2013 at least articulated how they would divvy up responsibilities across divisional, functional and geographic lines. Investec’s announcement is silent on that score.
That’s not the only problem.
For one, it is highly unusual – especially in the banking sector – for a non-executive chairman to suddenly shift to an executive role, and, in banking, practically unheard of for them to move to the role of CEO. Titi’s move, then, is very unusual.
Also, while both Titi and Du Toit are entrepreneurs through-and-through, and highly competent leaders of complex businesses, neither has run a bank. Banks are not empowerment groups or media companies, and neither are they asset management entities. The group may point to the fact that there’s continuity in that the new group risk officer (from April 1 2019) is Ciaran Whelan, one of two current joint global heads of the specialist/private bank, but this ought not disguise the fact that Titi has only held two significant executive roles in his life (neither in banking), and that Du Toit has ‘only’ built a large asset manager.
Additionally, Titi and Du Toit are both in their mid-fifties, suggesting they both have no more than a decade at the helm of the group… Quite a cultural change from what’s been in place for the past four decades!
Beyond the questions about the new joint CEOs, the Asset Management business will see two of its top five depart to group positions (along with Du Toit, COO Kim Mcfarland becomes finance director of Investec Group). Co-chief investment officer Domenico ‘Mimi’ Ferrini and global head of Client Group John Green take over from Du Toit as (you guessed it!) joint CEOs of Investec Asset Management.
Some pointed to the share price reaction (a 3% jump) on the day of the announcement last week as evidence that the board’s choices were ‘correct’. I’d argue that this was more related to the certainty provided by the announcement, that there was continuity in their choices (the bank did not appoint from outside) and – bluntly – that Investec did not lose Du Toit.
Others have argued that these appointments “mirror” the original structure of Koseff-Kantor, except had this been the case, there would’ve been like-for-like replacements (i.e. one appointment to CEO and another to MD).
Could it be that although he was a natural choice for the job, Du Toit’s lack of banking experience counted against him? Never mind the fact that in this entire executive shakeup, the group could not promote a single black executive (Titi’s weird transition from chairman, aside). At least it found one woman.
Could it be that had the bank chosen to appoint (only) Titi as chief executive, it would’ve lost Du Toit?
I agree with Bonang Mohale. This business of appointing two CEO’s – one black, one white – must stop. Either Mr Titi can do the job in which case appoint him, or he cannot in which case do not. Do not insult him with this paternalistic joint nonsense. #Investec
— Karin Richards (@Richards_Karin) February 6, 2018
Standard Bank’s Tshabalala/Kruger double act did not work, despite the bank protesting upon the permanent appointment of Tshabalala as group CEO last year that “the board is satisfied that the structure, which was necessary in 2013, has met and in many respects exceeded expectations”. Give me a break. (Read: Sim Tshabalala as CEO: A decision four years too late!)
Sasol’s awkward decision in 2016 to appoint (CFO) Bongani Nqwababa and (executive vice-president: International Operations) Steve Cornell as joint CEOs was equally preposterous. And it will also not last. Quite why the group needed a “formidable team” to run the same “large and complex company” that David Constable and Pat Davies had each managed to without ‘help’ it is unable to explain….
Bonang Mohale, CEO of Business Leadership South Africa did not mince his words in a statement about the Investec appointments: “This perpetuates the narrative that black people cannot manage either a complex business and/or a global business on their own. Consequently, they are in perpetual training without ever graduating.”
One of the chief risks in succession planning is that those who don’t get the top job will leave. We saw this in banking when Rob Shuter left Nedbank after Mike Brown was appointed CEO in 2010, and at Standard Bank when Peter Wharton-Hood was passed over in favour of Tshabalala/Kruger.
All a joint CEO compromise does is delay the inevitable.
Hilton Tarrant works at immedia. He can still be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.