From the outside, the circumstances around Maria Ramos’s departure as Absa CEO in February 2019 always looked a bit odd. According to the statement issued at the time, she had decided to end her decade-long reign because she was turning 60 and taking the option to retire. 

Observers could be forgiven for wondering how bankers, who are supposed to be good with numbers, could be caught out by something as simple as the CEO’s impending birthday. Ramos said in the statement announcing her departure that she hadn’t intended to stay as long as she did, implying that her departure was delayed because of Barclays’s 2016 decision to sell down its Absa stake. That should have meant there had been more than enough time to groom a successor...

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