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Alexander Forbes CEO says two more executives resign amid exodus

‘All the resignations were in a short period of time but for different individual reasons.’

Two more Alexander Forbes executives have resigned from the South African insurance-services provider, extending a management exodus following the ousting of former Chief Executive Officer Andrew Darfoor in September.

Tony Powis, CEO of corporate and employee benefits, and Sugendhree Reddy, head of retail financial services, will leave by the end of this month, Alexander Forbes’ new chief, Dawie de Villiers, said in an interview in Johannesburg on Wednesday. The total number of senior departures including Darfoor is now seven.

“All the resignations were in a short period of time but for different individual reasons,” said De Villiers, who joined in November from Cape Town-based rival Sanlam.

Alexander Forbes was midway through a turnaround program when Darfoor was ousted after his strategy was questioned by the company’s second-largest shareholder, billionaire Patrice Motsepe’s African Rainbow Capital Investments. The insurer, which also provides retirement and investment services, reported a loss for the six months through September following write offs related to the abandonment of an information technology project.

Strategic changes

De Villiers said last month he would devise a new strategy for Alexander Forbes by the end of March, with the firm facing challenges such as sluggish economic growth in South Africa and an unemployment rate of more than 27%.

The CEO has already made changes to the firm’s executive committee, with Bruce Bydawell heading the finance and mergers and acquisitions unit. Butsi Tladi has been appointed to lead corporate & employee benefits, Bonga Mokoena takes over the emerging markets team and Ryan Knipe the retail business, he said. De Villiers will extend his duties to look after investments, with several others appointed on an interim basis.

“It’s bad to lose people but it’s a good opportunity to start on a clean slate,” De Villiers said. “I have to look at the positives.”

The shares declined 1.1% to R4.70 as of 3:15 p.m. in Johannesburg, valuing the company at R6.4 billion ($468 million). The stock has fallen 31% over the past 12 months.

© 2019 Bloomberg L.P

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This is definitely a step in the right direction. The tainted legacy of Darfur and his acolytes has done immeasurable harm to the Alexander Forbes culture and brand and it will take brave and visionary leadership to restore the trust and confidence of staff and the market.

The rumour is Harry Potter was waving his magic wand around a fair bit!

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