Nedbank Group Ltd.’s Brian Kennedy is ready to take up a new challenge when he retires as head of corporate and investment banking — perhaps even at one of South Africa’s ailing state-owned companies.
Kennedy will leave as group managing executive of Nedbank CIB at the end of March after reaching the company’s mandatory retirement age of 60. His departure will cap more than three decades in investment banking, 24 of which have been spent helping to grow the division into one of Nedbank’s top money spinners, making up about 48% of earnings.
“I am considering other executive and non-executive roles because I am not quite finished,” he said in an interview in Johannesburg. This could include “trying to make a contribution to a state-owned enterprise that needs some leadership.”
The country has a long list of troubled government-owned companies, from debt-laden power utility Eskom Holdings SOC Ltd., which is struggling to keep the lights on, to South African Airways, which is in a form of bankruptcy protection to nurse the carrier back to financial health.
Kennedy, who has a masters degree in electrical engineering, helped lay the groundwork for Nedbank’s involvement in the construction, mining, oil and gas and infrastructure industries, as well as one of the leaders in the funding of renewable energy projects in South Africa.
A key milestone in the division’s development came over the past five years, Kennedy said, when Nedbank’s corporate and capital units were combined to create a business with a balance sheet of 350 billion rand ($24 billion).
“That really moves the dial in South Africa and the African continent,” he said. “So, strategically you have got the intellectual capital and the financial capital to really have an impact.”
Kennedy’s successor will take over on April 1 following a process started in June last year that is being led by him, Chief Executive Officer Mike Brown and members of the lender’s board. He declined to identify the candidates.
“We’ve conducted the interviews,” he said. “We’re doing our regulatory work now to be able to make the announcement pretty soon so that we can have a three-month hand-over period.”
The retirement of Kennedy, who is also director of Togo-based Ecobank Transnational Ltd., of which Nedbank owns 21%, comes at a time when investment-banking revenues in South Africa are under pressure with the nation’s economy in its longest downward cycle since 1945.
The lender was the top arranger of South African bonds in 2019, with a 24% market share, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
“There’s a significant deals pipeline in South Africa and the rest of the African continent but it’s not translating significantly because business confidence hasn’t improved,” he said. “It’s a fact of where we are.”
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