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Lungisa Fuzile ups the ante

Dec 24 2017 06:00
Justin Brown

Lungisa Fuzile, the new CEO of Standard Bank SA, is looking forward to moving from government to the private sector, even though he says he has lots to learn. Photo: Mary-Ann Palmer

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Johannesburg - Former National Treasury director-general Lungisa Fuzile spoke to “many other institutions” – predominantly in the financial services sector and “one or two outside that” – before accepting an offer for the position of Standard Bank SA CEO.

“In a way the conversations at Standard Bank were just ahead of all the conversations with the other potential employers.

“Many of them [other potential employers] made me very good offers.

“I looked at where Standard Bank is and where the chairman and group CEO said they want to take it to and what they said they wanted me to contribute in that effort. I thought, on balance, this is out of many good offers the best,” Fuzile said in an interview with City Press.

“If you look at Standard Bank in terms of transformation, in terms of how the business is managed ... they have moved quite far.”

Standard Bank Group CEO Sim Tshabalala said: “From a competitive point of view, we would rather have him at Standard Bank than at ABSA, FirstRand or Nedbank.

“It’s going to help us become more competitive. It will help us also to transform our leadership.

“We are chuffed Lungisa is coming to Standard Bank and not anywhere else. I do know there were other suitors but he found us more attractive than them,” he said.

As Standard Band SA CEO, Fuzile (51) will be responsible for the largest business within the Standard Bank Group. He joins the bank on January 15.

Fuzile said he decided to return to work because he still had lots of energy.

“Farming on its own – certainly at the scale that I am doing it – wouldn’t occupy all my time and exhaust all the energy I have. I have been very happy during the seven months here [he was speaking from the Eastern Cape]. I’ve done many things that I ordinarily, with a full-time job, would not have been able to do.”

Fuzile’s farm is between Elliot and Ugie in the Eastern Cape and his home village is Mqanduli, which is between Mthatha and Coffee Bay.

He started talking to Standard Bank last year as his contract with National Treasury was close to expiring in May.

“I thought it appropriate in terms of age, career development and everything to move on.”

However, Fuzile ultimately agreed with Pravin Gordhan, the finance minister at the time, to extend his contract with National Treasury by another two years.

The reshuffle of the Cabinet by President Jacob Zuma in March this year, which saw Gordhan axed and replaced by Malusi Gigaba as finance minster, “set a totally different course – both for Treasury and myself”, Fuzile said.

The reshuffle made Fuzile decide his time at the National Treasury was up.

The Cabinet reshuffle was “totally unwarranted”, he said.

Fuzile declined to comment on the latest medium-term budget policy statement as he didn’t feel it was appropriate to do so.

After he decided to leave National Treasury, he resumed talks with Standard Bank.

“I was not planning to hop into a job immediately after getting out of Treasury so I wasn’t under pressure.”

Regarding the entry of TymeDigital (a member of the Commonwealth Bank Group) and Discovery’s bank (expected to operate from the end of next year), Fuzile said competition always drives more optimal outcomes.

However, he said that, for systemic reasons, few large banks made sense. New entrants should jolt existing players to provide better products and ride on the back of technological advancements, he said.

Fuzile said he had no problem with moving from government to the private sector, adding that he still had the ability to learn new things.

“There will be a lot to learn. I’m humble enough to know that there is a lot I don’t know ... I have enough in me to be able to learn.

“I thrilled – I’m quite excited. The South African part of Standard Bank is very big.”

Tshabalala said that Fuzile was mandated in his role as the CEO of Standard Bank SA to: “Protect our position in the country and to grow it to become a more competitive financial services organisation.

“If you think about his qualities – he has the skills and the knowledge. He is a manager and he ran a large department. I don’t think you can get much bigger than National Treasury.

“And he has been an incredible leader. I think his track record speaks for itself. He is able to galvanise people and inspire them. His values and his vision – are aligned with ours.”

Fuzile has a master of commerce in economics from the University of Natal and completed the Harvard University Advanced Management Programme in 2009.

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