Johannesburg - Nxasana has become the latest addition to a new group of leaders appointed to steer the country's banking sector through the challenging global and local economic environments.
FirstRand announced last week that it would elevate Nxasana to group chief executive to succeed Paul Harris, who retires at the end of the year.
Nxasana, currently the chief executive of FirstRand Bank, becomes the first black person to take charge of a major South African banking group.
His appointment, heralded as "momentous" by transformation advocates, followed leadership changes at South Africa?' other major banks.
Absa recently appointed Maria Ramos and Nedbank Mike Brown, it's former chief financial officer, as chief executives respectively. Standard Bank fortified its leadership core by making Ben Kruger, Sim Tshabalala and Peter Wharton-Hood a troika of deputy group chief executives.
The SA Reserve Bank also welcomed more hands on deck with the promotion of Daniel Mminele from executive general manager to deputy governor.
Mminele becomes the central bank's third deputy, joining Xolile Guma and Renosi Makote. He fills the vacancy created by Ian Plenderleith's retirement a few years ago.
"These are formidable executives and if anyone is going to steer us to calmer waters it is them," says Nomkhita Nqweni, president of the Association of Black Securities and Investment Professionals (Absip).
She said: "We are confident that as torch-bearers of transformation they will continue in their new roles to contribute to the national effort of building a growing, inclusive and sustainable economy for the benefit of all South Africans."
Mminele is a past deputy president of Absip and Nxasana is a founding member of the Association for the Advancement of Black Accountants of Southern Africa.
The Black Management Forum called on other businesses to emulate FirstRand Group's approach to substantive transformation.
"This appointment is in addition to the patriotism displayed by FirstRand in sponsoring the World Cup," BMF president Jimmy Manyi said this week.
Nxasana views dealing with the slowdown in the economy and the impact of the financial crisis as his immediate challenges.
"The challenge is really to make sure that we continue to operate, survive as well as thrive going forward," he said.
Nxasana said business units that needed particular attention were FNB and Wesbank, which had large retail exposure.
"These are the businesses that are, in terms of the slowdown in the economy, seeing a much bigger impact.
"Overall we are seeing the impact across the board because even the corporate side, for instance, areas such as investment banking or mergers and acquisitions have slowed down.
"The impact is across the board but more pronounced in areas that have a higher exposure to the retail customer," he said.
Nxasana said the group was working to correct the situation through managing efficiencies and costs, and managing the level of bad debts.
He said they were doing this by lending while updating their client's credit scores to ensure they could afford the debt.
He acknowledged that the banking sector could help the country pull itself out of the recession by continuing to lend to businesses, especially those in sectors that were doing well, such as pharmaceuticals and energy.
At the global level, Nxasana expects more regulation for the financial sector especially in the derivatives markets. Derivatives are some of the financial instruments that have been blamed for sending the world economy into cardiac arrest.
"Derivatives are going to be with us for years to come but there is certainly going to be more regulation in areas such as hedge funds.
"Complicated derivatives, which were based on high levels of leverage, have been shown not to be sustainable in a number of areas and therefore products which were dependent on easy money and easy funding and liquidity being available are not going to continue to the same extent that you saw them in the past," he said.
Nxasana said his company's competitive advantage in the market was its people.
"We are running an organisation that has an excellent team of people. The fact that we have an owner-manager culture and an entrepreneurial culture based on innovation gives us a competitive advantage.
"Also we have great brands such as Rand Merchant Bank, Momentum, Outsurance, First National Bank and Wesbank," he said.
Nxasana has been part of the team formulating strategy for the group and he did not foresee any change in the direction the group was taking.
He said transformation in the group would continue to be driven from the highest offices within the group.
Nxasana said the continent provided good growth opportunities for the company.
- City Press