Maria Ramos's decade as Absa CEO will be defined by the marriage with Barclays, which she joined only after the honeymoon, and the eventual divorce settlement, in which she had a big hand. Unlike her predecessor Steve Booysen, Ramos did not have the good fortune to be CEO during a banking boom. In March 2009, when she took office, SA was still in recession as the aftermath of the global financial crisis dragged on. Absa had been pushing for growth in the final throes of the boom, which met with mixed success. On top of that, Booysen lobbed her a hospital pass of nearly R1bn in losses from single-stock futures contracts. This dragged a feeble first set of results down even further. "It is fair to say that the health of the franchise Ramos inherited was not ideal," said Investec Asset Management portfolio manager Chris Steward. "Absa had been pushing for earnings for a couple of years and probably had less in the cupboard than some of its competitors when she became CEO." For Absa, ho...

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