The departure of Mminele would follow that of another bank CEO, Basani Maluleke, who left African Bank unexpectedly earlier this year just as that bank was starting to turn around, also after what appeared to be a conflict over strategy with African Bank’s chair and board.
The fallout between Absa’s board and Mminele comes just two years after former Absa CEO Maria Ramos unexpectedly retired from the bank, amid speculation of a fallout with Lucas Bull. The board then installed one of its own members, Rene van Wyk, as interim CEO, before appointing Mminele, who took over as CEO in January 2020, becoming the first black person to lead the bank.
Mminele is a former deputy governor of the Reserve Bank, who retired after 20 years at the Bank, overseeing SA’s financial markets and representing it in international forums. He was brought in to head up a bank which had lost significant market share and whose share price was significantly underperforming, along with the other “big four” SA banks on the JSE.
When he took office, he was tasked by the board with reviewing the strategy Absa had put in place in 2018 after its divorce from UK-based Barclays, and Lucas Bull had told staff he had an “open mandate”.
Details of the “refreshed” strategy were announced by Mminele when the bank released its annual financial results last month and he made it clear that the Covid-19 crisis had accelerated the changes the bank needed to make to its culture and operating model.