NOMPU SIZIBA: African Bank announced this morning [Thursday] that it’s appointed a new CEO. He’s Kennedy Bungane. He has been in the financial services industry for more than a couple of decades and has worked for the likes of Standard Bank, the Absa Group and Barclays Africa. This development follows the out-of-the-blue resignation of Basani Maluleke as CEO.
Read: African Bank CEO resigns
Well, to get to know the new African Bank CEO and to find out what his approach will be in a currently lacklustre economy, I’m joined on the line by Kennedy Bungane. Thank you very much, Kennedy, for joining us. Congratulations on your new appointment. It does sound like you’re a real financial services veteran, and yet you’re only 46 years old. Just give us a bit of a background around your more than 20-year career in the sector.
KENNEDY BUNGANE: Thank you, Nompu, for having me on this show, and greetings to your listeners. I fell victim to the banking bug hardly three weeks after my matric exams in 1991. My mom actually had to sign my first employment contract with Standard Bank. It was an eight-year contract and I lasted just over 21 years at Standard – five years spent in retail banking and the latter in corporate and investment banking, where I finished off as the CEO of Corporate and Investment Banking for Africa and member of the Standard Bank Group.
And then of course I went to run Barclays Africa Bank in the continent, ahead of selling them to Absa and crafting the “One Barclays in Africa” strategy. So I guess you are correct. Banking has been my first love, and I think I clearly have unfinished business and thus I’m back in it.
NOMPU SIZIBA: So now you’re in the hot seat at African Bank. Of course you have a team of professionals who’ve been keeping the fires burning; there’s already a strategy in place and all of that. So what are you most looking forward to in terms of contributing to the bank?
Maybe this is one of the most exciting times to be back in in banking.
Apart from the roles that I’ve played at Standard Bank, Barclays Africa and Absa, one of my, I guess, more telling contributions has been as national president of the Association of Black Securities Investment Professionals, [where] I led the negotiations and drafting of the Financial Sector Charter, which later was gazetted by the national parliament as the BEE sector code for the financial sector; basically a manual for transformation in the sector.
And while there’s still a lot to do to ensure that the transformation of the industry does get embedded, and the industry goes beyond serving [not just] a few but all of us in South Africa, what is now taking place is what I call the global transformation of a big team, led by the advent of the fourth industrial revolution by digitalisation, and how it’s radically transforming channels of distribution and access to customers worldwide, both in the so-called first world and the emerging world, how you interact with clients and them utilising financial intermediation, how they access credit and capital has really been turned head over heels by digitalisation.
I am excited to come back into an industry that is grappling with this and how digitalisation can really fast-track, broaden access to capital, to credit, to our people in the township economy, to mothers and fathers in a cash-based society, [into] a much more non-cash-based society in terms of how they do business.
This is the challenge I believe African Bank is best placed to respond to, and the honour and privilege to join it in grappling with this challenge is really exciting to me.
NOMPU SIZIBA: Those challenges obviously can’t be addressed overnight, but at least it’s a good thing to aim for. Of course, we know that 2020 was a horrid year for the banks. They had to make significant provision for impairments and all of that, and of course it’s going to take time for our local economy to get to pre-Covid GDP levels.
So what’s your approach going to be in terms of retaining existing clients and growing them in what’s a difficult economic environment, not to mention as well a very competitive environment?
KENNEDY BUNGANE: Well, you’ve got a generation that’s lived through a once-in-a-century economic event, which is the Covid economic event. Alongside the massive pain and heartache of lost loved ones. And the pain of compromised health of family and friends, Covid has also [as] a once-in-a century economic event, impacted every sector of the economy, notwithstanding banking.
I do believe that the essence of what being an African Banker means, is this strong idea that we are not your sunshine bankers, we are not the kind of bankers that are only going to be there for you, for your household, for your family, for your business, when things are all bright and shiny. But we’re going to walk the path with you through every season and know how we can partner with you, advise you, help you make it through the storms. And African Bank in the past year, and more recently the past six months, is going to report next month how we’ve done just that – stayed true to our clients and customers and supported them. And without foretelling what our results are going to be, I think it will be self-evident, what I’ve just said.
My mandate however, Nompu, is to take that to an even higher level, by accelerating the transition of the bank from being a microlender, from having maybe just a minimal set of products, to being a fully fledged financial services platform and aggregator, and for personalised financial services and solutions that will stand our clients in good stead through every business cycle going forward.
NOMPU SIZIBA: Kennedy, you certainly sound like you have a vision, sir. Thank you very much for your time. We’re going to leave it there. That was Kennedy Bungane, the new CEO at African Bank.