BARCLAYS CEO Antony Jenkins on Friday expressed confidence in Barclays Africa Group CEO Maria Ramos, saying that he did not expect her to leave the banking group any time soon and that he hoped to work with her for "many years to come".
Mr Jenkins said on Friday that he had reformed Barclays’ leadership and did not expect changes in the foreseeable future.
The vote of confidence should settle speculation that Ms Ramos was in the line of fire due to the underperformance of Absa, now Barclays Africa Group, relative to its peers FirstRand, Nedbank and Standard Bank.
" I was on the Absa board. I know her very well. I have enormous respect for her, her capabilities as a leader, her integrity and her commitment to what I am trying to get done at Barclays so it is my expectation and strong hope that Maria and I work together for many years to come," he said. "I think she has done a very good job with our interests in South Africa and I think she will do a good job with our interests in the whole of Africa. Maria was on the executive team when I took over, she is still on the executive team and I could not be more confident in her abilities ."
Absa Group was renamed Barclays Africa Group this year after a merger with eight Barclays Africa operations created a pan-African bank with headquarters in Johannesburg and operations in west, east and southern Africa.
Asked where Ms Ramos’s successor would come from if she retired, Mr Jenkins said there was a probability her successor could be a South African.
"My view is that our African business should be run by somebody from Africa so that would be my desire. I don’t expect Maria to be leaving anytime soon.
"Obviously South Africa is our largest business and so I suppose there would be a probability that it could be a South African."
On the likelihood of the Absa retail banking footprint being rebranded to Barclays in the next five to 10 years, Mr Jenkins said the Absa brand was very strong in the local market. Barclays was one organisation and, while no decision had been taken on the rebranding, this would be kept "under review", he said.
"But I think the most important thing about it is we don’t just want to rip the red off and replace it with the Barclays," Mr Jenkins said. "We have really got to make sure that when and if we do that there is a better customer result at the end of the day."
Following the R18.3bn tie-up of Absa Group and eight Barclays Africa operations, Barclays upped its stake to 62.3% from 55.5%. Barclays Group, headquartered in London, has an option to increase its share in the Johannesburg-based Barclays Africa Group to just less than 75%.
Mr Jenkins said he was happy with the 62% stake because it allowed the Barclays Group to execute its strategy of being the "go-to bank" in Africa.
"At some point would we consider increasing our shareholding? Perhaps, but again that would be driven, I think, by economic and strategic considerations."
Mr Jenkins said Barclays was happy with the strategy of Barclays Africa and its performance.
He said it was not correct to look at the performance of institutions over short-time periods as banking was a long-term business. He said there have been a number of challenges in the revenue growth of the business and some of these related to the fact that the bank decided to limit its participation in unsecured lending.
Mr Jenkins said that overall Barclays was happy with its investment in South Africa and the Barclays Africa share price had appreciated since 2005, when Barclays bought a significant stake in Absa for R82.50 a share.
The bank’s share price is now trading at close to R148.
However, Barclays Africa Group’s share price has been an underperformer. Barclays Africa Group’s share price is down about 10%, while Standard Bank is up close to 3%. FirstRand and Nedbank are up about 11% and close to 10%, respectively.