FNB CEO Jacques Celliers replaced, takes fintech role

Admire Moyo
By Admire Moyo, ITWeb's news editor.
Johannesburg, 04 Oct 2023
Jacques Celliers, FNB CEO, has been reassigned to head the group's fintech unit.
Jacques Celliers, FNB CEO, has been reassigned to head the group's fintech unit.

Financial services group FirstRand has made some changes to its leadership team, which sees FNB CEO Jacques Celliers leaving his role.

Announcing the leadership shake-up today, FirstRand says all the new management appointments are effective from 1 April 2024.

In a statement, FistRand says after 10 years as CEO of FNB, Celliers will 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.

It explains that many of these activities have been built within FNB over a number of years, including, among others, the MVNO FNB Connect and the nav» lifestyle offerings, both of which are gaining traction with customers.

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

FirstRand notes that during his tenure as CEO of FNB, 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 Celliers is uniquely placed to execute on the fintech strategy, the firm notes.

Harry Kellan will take over as CEO of FNB after 10 years as CFO of FirstRand.

“I am grateful for the time I spent at FNB, it was an honour to lead such a committed and innovative team. Together we built a market-leading digital institution, with great customer propositions delivered on a well-constructed and agile platform,” says Celliers.

“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.”

Booming fintech

In its financial results for the year ended 30 July, FNB said its fintech strategy was paying dividends, with the financial institution seeing more of its customers making use of the products.

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

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

As a long-standing member of the retail and commercial executive committee and the FNB advisory board, Kellan has been involved in shaping many of the key strategies FNB is executing on, it adds.

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

“I am inheriting a great business in great shape, with a brand recognised for excellence in innovation and exciting customer propositions. I believe the insights and learnings I have gained as group CFO can bring new perspectives to the business, in particular unlocking greater collaboration with the wider portfolio.”

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.

FirstRand notes Davias’s tenure as CFO of the two largest franchises in the group make him the ideal candidate for group CFO.

He has worked closely with Kellan for over a decade, and this will ensure a smooth and efficient handover.

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

Pullinger steps down

The financial services also announced Alan Pullinger will step down as group CEO of FirstRand, and will be succeeded by Mary Vilakazi, currently group chief operating officer.

It notes Pullinger leaves a long and successful career at FirstRand, spanning 26 years, including the role of 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, FirtsRand notes, succession planning for this role has been anchored to his expected departure in 2024.

Pullinger says: “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. We have all worked together for many years, in a collegiate and empowering environment, to execute on a consistent strategy to deliver growth.

“FirstRand’s business philosophy means we behave and think like owners and the entire leadership is collectively and individually invested to deliver 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 chief financial officer 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.

The firm adds that Vilakazi is close to the strategies and operations of the underlying portfolio of businesses through her membership of the executive committees and advisory boards of the operating businesses.

As CEO of the corporate centre, she has oversight of the key central functions of risk, compliance, treasury and audit.

Vilakazi says: “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. I take over at a time when the portfolio is in good shape in all of its jurisdictions.

“The things that set FirstRand apart from its peers and enable it to outperform remain firmly in place. 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."