Net1 has announced that its long-standing CEO, Serge Belamant, will retire at the end of May 2017 as a consequence of pressure from certain of the company’s shareholders. The news was greeted positively by all market participants, although it is probably meaningless to most social grant recipients.
On a positive note, news of Serge Belamant’s retirement does show that shareholder activism can be deployed in a constructive way and that shareholders are not just passive passengers when it comes to influencing the strategy of a business. Hopefully, it also signals a true potential for the transformation of Net1’s business practices which, in a nutshell, amount to financial exploitation of the poor.
On the other hand, this might be a purely cosmetic exercise designed to take the pressure off Net1.
Buried in the detail of the announcement of the resignation are the following gems:
The reason I am doubly sceptical is that this move follows a similar announcement in April 2017 when Belamant stepped down as the chairman of Net1, just to be replaced by Christopher S. Seabrooke, a non-executive director of Net1 since 2005. I hope I am wrong when I say that all this looks a bit like rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.
To give him his due, Seabrooke did say that the company will “introduce new business models responsive to the needs of South Africans”.
I have some suggestions that could be implemented immediately to test the new leadership:
I guess only time will tell whether this move is a truly meaningful transition for Net1, a reputational win for its shareholders and financial victory for social grant recipients, or whether this is merely an attempt to put lipstick on a pig. DM
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Sygnia CEO Magda Wierzycka is no stranger to challenging the status quo. The actuary and consumer advocate believes in forcing transparency in the financial services industry, one educated investor at a time. Her outspokenness has earned her a legion of online trolls and is reported to have SA fund managers shaking in their boots. Shes the only female CEO of a fintech company in Africa and loves all things future tech. She tweets from @Magda_Wierzycka.
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