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The Executive Merry-go-round

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The Executive Merry-go-round

Recent moves in South Africa’s C-Suites have underscored the risk aversion of boards, with the same trusted hands hopping on and off the merry-go-round at various destinations, but with few new players appearing.

Debbie Goodman-Bhyat, MD of Jack Hammer Executive Headhunters, says there remains an “inner circle” of tried and tested, trusted managers who have shown quality leadership and achieved noteworthy business results, who are therefore first choice when it comes to replacing exiting CEOs or Non-Executive Directors on boards.


“Certainly, when it comes to blue chip companies, boards have shown that they are just not willing to gamble on new talent when they can opt for the relative peace of mind that comes with appointing candidates who have proven their value over time,” she says.


Goodman-Bhyat explains that the latest revolution of the merry-go-round has seen Mark Lamberti move from CEO of Transaction Capital*, to CEO of Imperial Holdings. He succeeds Hubert Brody, who remains on the Imperial board as non-executive director. Lamberti founded Massmart and was its CEO from 2003 to 2007. He is also a former director of Wooltru, Primedia, Datatec and Altron.


Guy Hayward, former Massmart CFO and COO, is taking over the role as the company’s CEO from Grant Pattison in June. Kuseni Dlamini has been appointed to the board as independent non-executive chairman. Dlamini was previously executive Chairman of The Richards Bay Coal Terminal, CEO of Anglo-American South Africa and CEO of Old Mutual South Africa & Emerging Markets.


This latest round of musical chairs coincides with the release of the 14th Commission for Employment Equity Report, which noted that fewer than 20% of SA’s top jobs are occupied by black Africans. The Times noted that the reportfound a "staggered and inconsistent" pattern in the promotion of designated groups to top management.


Goodman-Bhyat said that while transformation was not happening at the desired rate, with boards opting for the safety of known leaders, things were looking better in the private sector than a decade ago, with a far healthier looking ‘batting order’ of black talent coming through the pipeline.


“Having had some tenure at a blue chip company in a CEO or similar role is however still a ticket to ongoing similar opportunities,” notes Goodman-Bhyat.


“The trend to promote from within from the COO or CFO roles to CEO is partly responsible for sluggish transformation in the CEO role. These two most likely ‘transition’ posts are typically the least transformed in an executive team. Conversely, HR, Marketing and Legal roles boast the highest levels of transformation - but promotions to the top job generally do not happen from these areas.”


Goodman-Bhyat says that most transformation and EE appointments are focused in support services, with the more technical or commercial roles (from which CEO or board level appointments are more likely to be made if there is internal succession) lagging behind.


“However, these roles often have very specific academic and experiential requirements attached to them, and there is a skills shortage across the racial and gender board in these areas.


“Long-term, sustainable transformation is ultimately dependant on a greater number of commercially and technically qualified black graduates, who then work their way through the ranks, building a solid track record in key roles. There is no quick route to the top – this is clearly the message we are receiving from corporate boards in SA.”


* Source: Moneyweb

Last modified on Thursday, 24 April 2014 11:02

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