Riaan Stassen. Picture: TREVOR SAMSON
Riaan Stassen. Picture: TREVOR SAMSON

Capitec Bank co-founder and chair Riaan Stassen, who played a significant role in shaking up SA’s banking industry, will retire from the financial services group at the end of May.

Capitec, whose plans to disrupt the banking industry were met with some suspicion when it launched in 2001, has become a sector heavyweight partly by making financial services more accessible.

At last count, Capitec had 11.4-million clients — more than Nedbank. The lender is catching up with Absa, Standard Bank and FNB.

In late March, Capitec said its headline earnings in the year ended February 2019 rose 19% to R5.3bn, a better growth rate than any of its main rivals.

“Riaan played an integral role in the establishment and success of the bank from 2001 to 2013, when he retired as CEO of Capitec and Capitec Bank,” the group said on Thursday. Stassen has served as non-executive chair of the boards since 2016.

At the end of February, he owned 0.67% of Capitec, according to the group’s annual report. Thanks to the lender’s shares surging from R2.75 on listing in 2002 to R1,333.08 on Thursday, that stake was worth about R1bn on Thursday.

Capitec said Santie Botha, chair of Curro Holdings and Famous Brands and a non-executive director at Telkom, would take over as chair of the boards from June 1.

“Santie’s appointment will strengthen the independent element of the boards and support the continual drive to augment board acumen,” Capitec said.

Botha, a former chancellor of Nelson Mandela University, has served on the boards of Liberty Holdings, Imperial Holdings, Tiger Brands, MTN Group, Absa and Unilever.

Riaan Stassen, the man who shook up SA’s banking industry when he co-founded Capitec Bank is retiring from the company at the end of May.

Stassen, who has served as nonexecutive chair of the bank since stepping down as CEO in 2013, played a leading role in growing Capitec into the third-largest bank in SA in terms of market capitalisation in just 18 years. Capitec’s market capitalisation was about R153.332bn at Thursday’s close.

During this time, Capitec transformed from a micro-lending business, with assets of R409m in 2002, to a mass market retail bank with assets of more than R100bn at last count.

Capitec has 11.4-million clients — more than Nedbank — and is catching up with Absa, Standard Bank and First National Bank.

The bank’s headline earnings in the year to end-February rose 19% to R5.3bn, a better growth rate than any of its main rivals.

Anthony Clark, an independent analyst at Small Talk Daily Research, said that Stassen’s exit marked the end of an era for the bank.

"I don’t see it being negative for the company, but it is the closing of a chapter, which was marked by dynamic growth in the company, made billionaires out of many individuals and fundamentally changed the nature of affordable banking, benefiting millions of poor and low-income households in SA," Clark said.

Avior Capital banking analyst Harry Botha said Stassen had contributed greatly to the business and played a pivotal role in growing and shaping it into the financial institution it is today.

The group said on Thursday: "Riaan played an integral role in the establishment and success of the bank from 2001 to 2013, when he retired as CEO of Capitec and Capitec Bank."

Stassen has been with the bank during its toughest times. In January 2018, Capitec became the second JSE-listed company after Steinhoff to face the scrutiny of a Viceroy report, when the obscure research firm published its report entitled "Capitec – A Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing".

Capitec’s share price reacted immediately, losing more than a quarter of its value within days. The market, however, quickly discounted most of the findings in the report and its share price recovered.