African Bank boss Basani Maluleke embraces a new challenge

Newly appointed African Bank Group CEO Basani Maluleke.
Newly appointed African Bank Group CEO Basani Maluleke.

Newly appointed African Bank Group CEO Basani Maluleke is a woman whose head space is steeped in corporate finance, involving maximising shareholder value through long and short-term financial planning.

Come to think of it, when growing up she was not even contemplating of going into the banking sector or even corporate finance, but was unwavering in her ambition to one day run a "significant organisation".

Maluleke, 40, owes the shaping of her career path largely to her father, Pretoria's renowned but late Judge George Maluleke, who instilled a sense of high work ethic into his daughter. "I initially wanted to be a lawyer, but because I had a bursary from auditing firm KPMG, my father told me in no uncertain terms that he was not going to pay for a law degree while I have the opportunity to study for a BCom degree through the bursary," she said.

"Growing up in the township in the late 1980s I had this desire to become a Struggle lawyer and follow in my father's footsteps. I became politically conscious at an early age. I became aware of the 'Release Nelson Mandela' campaigns and his imprisonment ... the uprisings in the townships.

"That was [the] reason I did a law degree after completing my BCom degree. During vacations I worked in the auditing department of KPMG."

But it was at Rand Merchant Bank (RMB) in the early 2000s where Maluleke's window to the wide world of corporate finance was opened for her to fly, with former FirstRand Group CEOs Paul Harris and Sizwe Nxasana giving guidance. In 2007, RMB merged with FNB to form FirstRand.

"Sizwe and Paul played an enormous role in my career in banking. They constantly pushed me to perform. Herman Rodman at RMB is another person I am grateful to, but there are many others. Herman is a lawyer steeped in corporate finance and took a special interest in my career."

As one of the young women business leaders in SA, Maluleke took over from retired African Bank CEO Brian Riley early this month, filling the same position.

She has worked for law firm Edward Nathan Friedland, various FNB divisions and was executive director of Transcend Capital, a corporate finance business specialising in B-BBEE ownership. "Being an accountant was the main motivating factor that landed me in corporate finance."

She said she was content with the vast areas of the financial industry she has dabbled in, including law and accounting, construction and tax.

Her rise to the top has, however, not been touched by gender prejudices and bias. "There is no denying that we live in a patriarchal society.

"Gender bias is prevalent wherever you go, I am grateful I did not have to focus my attention on those biases. You are always surrounded by people with various forms of bias. But, I must point out that there are a lot of others who take a keen interest in your career and strive to bring the best out of you."

At African Bank, Maluleke is tasked with transforming the bank from being a predominantly lending business to a transactional bank. She is most excited about African Bank's transactional product offering, My World, which has been introduced to bank staff and is due for public launch later this year. It will offer customers a unique family product that is supported by digital convenience and near-free pricing.