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Ben Kruger on his future at Standard Bank

‘Going forward, quite fortunately, I think I’ll be able to focus on some of the things I enjoy doing.’

NASTASSIA ARENDSE:  Standard Bank has decided to scrap its joint CEO structure and Sim Tshabalala will be taking the reins as the new Group CEO. Ben Kruger has stepped down with immediate effect, but will remain executive director. This is our interview with Ben Kruger, former joint CEO of Standard Bank.

WARREN THOMPSON:  It’s been a number of years, I think, that you’ve had this co-CEO structure in place. Now the group has made the decision that Sim will continue as the CEO, and you are going to continue as an executive director. Just give us a sense of why you’ve decided to terminate this arrangement now.

BEN KRUGER:  Certainly. It’s hard to believe it, but this is almost the conclusion of five years of doing this in a joint role. The bank clearly has changed quite a lot. We had a very complicated international business, we were building out in Africa, and we were at a very early stage doing our technology transition.

When you look at the group right now, we are in a much better position. We’ve clarified and scaled back internationally. We have grown very well in Africa, and are far more mature. And in South Africa we are coming to the conclusion of our technology journey. So the bank is in a much simpler state.

Read: Having two at the helm has paid off for Standard Bank

Looking at that, we are embarking on the next phase of our strategic journey. I think our strategy is very clear and when I looked at it I thought Sim and I have had an agreeable partnership. We get on really well, but this has been the right time to move into a structure like this. Sim and I have had many discussions around this and concluded that it makes sense for me to remain part and do some of the things I’ve been focusing on in the new partnership structure, but clearly with Sim as the sole chief executive of the group going forward.

Read: Sim Tshabalala as CEO: A decision four years too late!

WARREN THOMPSON:  So it was very much the strategy employed at the time, given I guess the complexity of the business and the situation that you face. What are your responsibilities going to be going forward?

BEN KRUGER:  Going forward, quite fortunately I think I’ll be able to focus on some of the things I enjoy doing. So I will continue with the digitisation and technology, and trying to complete that work. I clearly have a lot of experience in risk management, and so that will remain with me.

The Africa operations will remain with me as we continue to grow that. I still will be responsible for our relationship with ITBC in China, our joint ventures in London and will take over that in the next while.

And then I’ll be working with our CIB colleagues, where I hailed from early on, and work with them in investment markets, risk, and work with some of our clients. I’ve been asked to look after a fair number of very senior client relationships, and that is something that I really enjoy doing and am quite passionate about, so it gives me a different zest for life to try and make a difference in that regard.

WARREN THOMPSON:  It sounds like you are still going to remain very, very involved and very integrated in the business. How long are you planning on continuing with Standard Bank? I understand that you’ve been with them almost your entire career.

BEN KRUGER:  Yes. I’ve just completed a third of century. It’s hard to say that, but it is the reality and I’m about two years away from retirement and, based on Harpe’s scale, I’m quite happy to see out my time to retirement. But I know I work for Sim, and he’ll assess that every year.

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