New African Bank CEO looks to disrupt banking

Johannesburg – New African Bank CEO Basani Maluleke is looking forward to leading the bank in disrupting the local market and providing a value offering that doesn’t yet exist.

“I think we will do well – that’s why I’m taking this on,” Maluleke said during an interview with City Press.

African Bank named Maluleke as the “potential successor” as CEO to Brian Riley. She is set to become the first black woman banking CEO in the country.

Riley will step down as African Bank CEO at the end of March next year and will become an African Bank non-executive director thereafter.

Maluleke has been a board member of African Bank and its predecessor entity since July 2015 – before the launch of the new African Bank in April 2016, which followed the failure of the old African Bank in August 2014.

She has a BCom LLB from UCT and an MBA from Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University in the United States.

Maluleke has over 10 years worth of experience in financial services and has worked for Edward Nathan Friedland, RMB and FNB – the last of which where she was head of private clients.

She joined African Bank as the company’s operations executive in July this year.

Prior to joining African Bank, Maluleke was an executive director at Transcend Capital, a corporate finance business specialising in empowerment deals.

African Bank is trying to get back on its feet amid tough competition – as well as the launch of new rivals like Tyme Digital and Discovery Bank – amid a stagnant economy where consumer spending is under pressure.

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“There is no question that the competitive environment is difficult. The impending risk of a further downgrade grows larger every day and makes us all very nervous.”

“The thing we are really cognisant of is that we are growing off a small base compared with the big banks. Our strategy right now is about growing by taking clients from those guys.

“At the moment the fact that the economy is growing very slowly is not a concern for us. The key is to develop the engine that we are building right now.

“Once we’ve shown a few more sets of really strong results over the next year or two, then we will start worrying about SA Inc.”

“We are quite comfortable that our strategy will get us from a growth point of view.

“Having said that, we are worried about over indebted consumers, the saturation in the market, the regulatory environment – those things are real.”

“We are figuring out how to access a more affluent customer base to further diversify our customer base.”

Away from African Bank, Maluleke is on the board of Sephaku Holdings as a nonexecutive director.

“At Sephaku, I’ve indicated to the guys that, having been appointed in this position, I need to review my continuing with them.”

She also holds a nonexecutive board position at private equity business Ata Capital.

Maluleke founded a non-governmental organisation (NGO) called “Get me to graduation” and it is mainly funded by Nedbank.

“We provide subsistence funding to talented tertiary students,” she said.

On the topic of transformation, Maluleke said that BEE and transformation needed to happen.

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“It is massively complicated and it’s definitely very slow. I’m seeing progress. When I started working I would often be the only black person in the room.

“That rarely ever happens now. You are seeing more and more black people because of affirmation action and employment equity.

“Those things are making a really big difference. Without them we wouldn’t be seeing the momentum that we are starting to see. That is definitely encouraging.”

“In terms of ownership – it’s like compensating black people from being excluded from the economy for the last 300 to 400 years. That is really important. We have a long way to go there still.”

“Financial services has fallen behind other sectors in terms of transformation.”

On her Twitter profile, Maluleke says she is “passionate about gender rights and social justice”.

“Being a woman, gender is very close to my heart. So, from a very young age – I was seven or eight – I asked my dad if I could become a boy.

“What if I could be a boy? Boys have all the rights. They never have a curfew, they don’t have to cook or clean. I thought this would be an amazing time for me if I could just change genders.

“I have always been conscious of gender rights and gender equality. I do think that women shoulder a massive responsibility in society and they don’t necessarily have the right level of support.”

On the sporting front, Maluleke completed the Comrades Marathon in 2014. But, she says, the Two Oceans ultramarathon is her favourite and she has completed it four times.

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“I would like to do ten before my running career is over.”

A key area of importance for Maluleke is her family.

“We are very close. I lost my father in August. It has been a difficult couple of months to reconstitute the family.”

“We are a truly extraordinary family.”

Maluleke has three siblings and two half siblings. Her eldest sister, Tsakani Ratsela, is the deputy Auditor-General of South Africa.

“She is the first black female deputy Auditor-General of the country,” Maluleke said.