Former Alexander Forbes CEO Andrew Darfoor. Picture: FREDDY MAVUNDA/FINANCIAL MAIL
Former Alexander Forbes CEO Andrew Darfoor. Picture: FREDDY MAVUNDA/FINANCIAL MAIL

Axed Alexander Forbes CEO Andrew Darfoor has defended his track record at SA’s largest pension fund administrator.

"The company reported tangible progress across a broad number of key metrics of the Ambition 2022 strategy," Darfoor said.

"I reiterate, I am not happy about the outcome and I will deal with it in due course."

Darfoor also said he had achieved the set targets for expense efficiency two years ahead of schedule.

He also said the direction in which he was taking Alexander Forbes had been approved by the board before he was mandated to implement it, and was again endorsed by the company in March 2018 when it reported its financial results.

Despite some missed targets, Darfoor pointed out that there had been improvements in revenue growth and profit, while the key areas of the turnaround strategy, including retirements and investments, had also grown satisfyingly.

Shareholders, including Patrice Motsepe’s African Rainbow Capital, have communicated dissatisfaction about the firm’s financial performance and the direction in which Darfoor was leading the company.

Alexander Forbes’s share price has dropped 14% over the past two years as key personnel left and the company’s return on equity declined to less than 10%.

But Darfoor’s dismissal with immediate effect shocked many, and raised questions about whether there was more to it than met the eye.

The market cheered the news, sending the group’s share price up as much as 8% in intraday trade on Tuesday, its highest level in three months.

This momentum carried through to Wednesday, with the share rising to R5.20, before closing 0.2% lower at R4.95.

Asked if there was more to Darfoor’s dismissal than the company’s financial performance, Alexander Forbes chair Nonkululeko Nyembezi said on Wednesday details of his termination were confidential.

Alexander Forbes’s largest shareholder, Marsh & McLennan Companies, also declined to comment on the matter.

Head of research at Benguela Global Fund Managers Karl Gevers said that just looking at Alexander Forbes’s financial performance alone, the board seemed to be justified in terminating his contract.

"From the numbers, the execution of the strategy is questionable," he said.

"Even though cost cutting may have been ahead of plan, that would have been the easier part. It will be interesting to see if the board continues with the strategy under new leadership," said Gevers.

Alexander Forbes has seen several top management changes in just two years.

Darfoor’s predecessor, Edward Kieswetter, resigned suddenly to take early retirement in February 2016.

Darfoor replaced him in September 2016.

buthelezil@businesslive.co.za