In the musical, The Sound of Music, one of the catchiest tunes had the lyric, “How do you solve a problem like Maria, how do you catch a cloud and pin it down?”. I’m willing to bet a larger amount of money that retiring Absa CEO Maria Ramos despises the song, but it’s oddly apposite as she draws a line under a tumultuous decade at the bank because it’s really difficult to judge her term. Personally, I can’t get away from the feeling that she really didn’t have a great run at the bank, and evidently the market agrees since the share price shot up 7% on the announcement of her departure. By almost every pure banking or market metric, the performance of the bank under her watch was abysmal. Over the past decade, Absa’s share price has doubled, which doesn’t seem too bad except that Nedbank and Standard’s share prices are both up 200%, and FirstRand’s is up 400%. More pertinently perhaps, Absa’s price to book is down over the past decade, whereas Standard and Nedbank’s are both up 50% a...

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