FirstRand CEO steps down, with big changes at FNB

FirstRand announced today that Alan Pullinger will step down as the company’s CEO and will be succeeded by Mary Vilakazi, the company’s current COO.

These appointments will be effective from 1 April 2024.

Pullinger has been with FirstRand for 26 years, where he was RMB CEO until his promotion to FirstRand deputy CEO in early 2015. 

He became group CEO in early 2018 and, at the time of this appointment, indicated to the board a time horizon of six years. 

As such, succession planning for this role has been anchored to his expected departure in 2024, the company said.

Pullinger said, “The depth and quality of the FirstRand management team means that stepping down as CEO, and the subsequent changes that this decision prompts, is a seamless process.” 

“FirstRand’s business philosophy means that we behave and think like owners, and the entire leadership is collectively and individually invested in delivering on the group’s commitments to its shareholders, customers, and employees.”

“It has been a tremendous honour and privilege to be a part of, and to lead, FirstRand and I have full confidence in handing over the baton to Mary and her new leadership team.”

Vilakazi joined FirstRand as group COO in 2018 from MMI Holdings, where she held the roles of CFO and deputy CEO. 

As one of three FirstRand executive directors, she has worked closely with Pullinger on strategy execution and successfully led a number of key growth and diversification strategies. 

Vilakazi said, “I am delighted to be entrusted to lead one of the largest and most profitable financial institutions in Africa.”

“During his tenure, Alan has demonstrated inspirational leadership, and I have been privileged to work in partnership with him and the broader team.”

“Our portfolio of leading brands, our top-quality talent, our unique and long-standing culture of empowerment and accountability, and our relentless focus on shareholder value creation will continue to underpin the group’s success on my watch.”

Jacques Celliers

After ten years as FNB CEO, Jacques Celliers will also take up a new role with executive responsibility for the group’s fintech strategy, which is to develop revenue streams from activities ancillary to financial services. 

“The group believes this strategy now requires dedicated leadership to scale and grow.”

“During his tenure as FNB CEO, Mr Celliers led a successful customer-centric strategy, supported by an innovative technology build that resulted in FNB becoming the market leader for digitally enabled financial services.”

“This track record means Mr Celliers is uniquely placed to execute on the fintech strategy.”

Celliers said, “I am grateful for the time I spent at FNB, it was an honour to lead such a committed and innovative team.” 

“I am excited to now give dedicated focus to some of the really innovative offerings currently sitting in FNB. These offerings have resonated with customers but have the potential to materially scale, both within our own customer base and eventually the open market.”

Harry Kellan will take over as CEO of FNB after ten years as CFO of FirstRand.

Kellan joined FNB in 2005 and spent seven years as CFO, after which he was appointed FirstRand CFO in 2014. 

“Kellan’s long tenure at FNB prior to his group role positions him well to now lead the largest customer franchise in the portfolio,” the company said.

Kellan said, “Going home to FNB is an exciting prospect. I feel energised at the prospect of leading a motivated, already high-performing team and working alongside them to shape the future of these famous brands, FNB and WesBank.”

“I am inheriting a great business in great shape, with a brand recognised for excellence in innovation and exciting customer propositions.”

Kellan will be succeeded as group CFO by Markos Davias, the current CFO of FNB. Prior to transferring to FNB in 2020, Davias was CFO of RMB from 2015. 

Davias’s tenure as CFO of the two largest franchises in the group makes him the ideal candidate for group CFO, the company said. 

Gideon Joubert, currently the CFO of the group’s broader Africa portfolio, will take over from Davias as FNB CFO. Joubert will be succeeded by Taufeeqa Waja, currently the head of finance for the broader Africa portfolio.

FirstRand also announced that the current chairman, Roger Jardine, will step down at FirstRand’s AGM on 30 November 2023, and the board has appointed Johan Burger as chairman, effective 1 December 2023.

Pullinger thanked Jardine for his invaluable contribution as a director, saying, “Roger has provided strong stewardship of the board, including its reconstitution, the challenges presented by the Covid-19 pandemic and management succession.”