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Maria Ramos’s decision to step down as Absa CEO, after exactly a decade in the job, marks the end of a tumultuous era for SA’s third-most valuable bank, which now plans to claw back the ground it lost under former parent Barclays plc. Since Ramos took the helm in March 2009, Absa has been the worst-performing stock within the JSE’s banking index. While its market capitalisation has tripled to R157.9bn, sector giant FirstRand’s has grown six-fold, while Standard Bank, Nedbank, RMH and newcomer Capitec have all fared better than Absa. But Ramos, who will leave the industry without a female CEO when she retires at the end of February, has had to steer the company through a unique set of circumstances. While Barclays’s acquisition of Absa in 2005 was initially hailed as a vote of confidence in SA, the London-headquartered group imposed operational constraints on the SA business that ultimately meant Absa lost its market leadership in home loans and credit cards to its more unencumbered ...

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