Black professionals stage a walkout at Absa Capital after Phakamani Hadebe is overlooked
'It’s the first time we’ve seen black professionals take a stand against the overlooking of a competent black professional'
About 20 black professionals at Absa Capital staged a walkout last week when Phakamani Hadebe was passed over for the position of head of corporate and investment banking (CIB).
The walkout came against the backdrop of Barclays Africa making changes to its group executive committee (exco) after the bank came under fire for its lack of transformation.
Transformation in the financial services sector, or the lack thereof, has come into sharp focus of late, especially for a dearth of black talent in the higher echelons — a fact highlighted during the parliamentary hearings on the state of transformation in the sector.
A Barclays Africa representative said Hadebe resigned in March, citing personal reasons.
Hadebe was previously at the Treasury and has been credited with turning around the Land Bank. His sudden departure from Barclays Africa triggered management changes in the CIB.
The position of CIB head was left vacant when Stephen van Coller left in 2016 to head strategy at MTN. Now Van Coller’s position has been split into two posts "to create two distinct areas of accountability". Temi Ofong will head corporate transactions, while Mike Harvey will head the investment bank.
The CIB unit posted a 27% rise in headline earnings to above R5bn for the first time in the 2016 financial year.
"Ofong and Harvey are co-heads because the portfolios they manage are linked to their strengths, and the combination is therefore the most optimal option," said the Barclays Africa representative.
Craig Bond, former head of retail and business, was left in limbo after deputy CEOs David Hodnett and Peter Matlare were appointed to head SA and the rest of Africa, respectively.
Bond will fill the newly created position of head of partnerships, joint ventures and strategic alliances, but will no longer be on the exco.
"Black representation at exco has increased now that Craig Bond is no longer on the exco," the representative explained.
There are now four black executives on the exco out of seven: Matlare, Yasmin Masithela, Bobby Malabie and Nomkhita Nqweni, the CEO of the Wealth Investment Management and Insurance unit.
Barclays Africa clarified that 88% of its new hires were black and 83% of new promotions were black, but said that more needed to be done.
Barclays Africa did not answer specific and detailed questions about the walkout.
Ajay Lalu, MD of Black Lite Consulting, which deals with transformation issues, said: "Phakamani left in a hurry, it wasn’t a planned move.
"Typically, executives leave at short notice because they are not happy and they’re frustrated rather than the ‘personal reasons’ excuse which is often used.
"It’s the first time we’ve seen black professionals take a stand against the overlooking of a competent black professional."
Lalu added: "Knowing Phakamani, he is a strong leader, capable and competent. The fact that he’s been overlooked talks to the culture of the institution and the absence of a commitment to transformation."
Association of Black Securities and Investment Professionals president Sibongiseni Mbatha said: "Absa has lost black talent at a critical time when we’re trying to fast-track transformation.
"When a capable, formidable black professional leaves, it raises concern."
On the appointment of two heads of the CIB, Mbatha said: "I don’t know what they’re trying to achieve."