Mary Vilakazi gets FirstRand top job

Currently COO, she will take over from Alan Pullinger.
Incoming CEO Mary Vilakazi, the first woman to head up the banking group. Image: Moneyweb

Mary Vilakazi will take over as the group CEO of JSE-listed FirstRand Group effective from April next year.

Vilakazi, currently FirstRand’s chief operating officer (COO), will be taking over from current group CEO Alan Pullinger, who is set to step down after over five years in the role. She will become the first woman to head up the banking group.


Read/listen: FirstRand CEO pleased with group’s ‘boring’ results

The financial services giant – which is the holding company of one of the country’s big four banks First National Bank – announced a string of leadership changes that will all take effect on 1 April 2024.

Vilakazi praised the outgoing CEO for his leadership during his tenure and expressed delight at taking on the top job next year.

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

“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,” she said.

FirstRand’s share price

Read: FirstRand dodges credit loss as choosy lending pays off

According to FirstRand, the understanding was always that Pullinger would step away from the position after six years, and because of this it expects the leadership transition to be a smooth one.

Pullinger became CEO in 2018, after having been with the institution for two decades.

He expressed confidence in the team entrusted with the banking group’s future.

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

“FirstRand’s business philosophy means that 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.”

Alan Pullinger, FirstRand, FNB

Alan Pullinger, outgoing CEO of FirstRand Group. Image: Moneyweb


Board changes

FirstRand also announced that board chair Roger Jardine will step down at its AGM at the end of November. Johan Burger takes over as chair in December.

Commenting on the leadership reshuffle, Jardine said: “The ability to promote from within ensures the transition of responsibilities is seamless and collaborative, and that the individuals moving into these new roles have had the necessary experience, tenure and track records of delivery. The board is also pleased to be able to appoint a well-qualified successor in Johan Burger.”

Other leadership moves

FNB’s current CEO Jacques Celliers will reportedly be tasked to execute the group’s fintech strategy. It is unclear what exactly the role will be, but FirstRand did say it will have executive responsibilities and that Celliers will be the ‘best fit’ to drive the strategy forward.

Celliers has been FNB CEO for 10 years.

“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,” he said.

Harry Kellan will take over from Celliers and step into the CEO role at FNB.

Kellan is currently the CFO of FirstRand and has been in the position for a decade.


  • Markos Davias, current CFO at FNB, will take over as the new CFO at FirstRand;
  • Gideon Joubert will move into the CFO position at FNB and exit his role as CFO of FirstRand’s broader Africa portfolio; and
  • Taufeeqa Waja, currently head of finance for the group’s broader Africa portfolio, has been appointed to succeed Joubert.

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They outperformed? 5y share price must be close to flat. Don’t follow them all but Investec probably doubled.

The unbundlings can confuse things, so need a way to compare R1000 invested what worth now after dividends and unbundlings.

A BIG UP to FirstRand. To thrive, companies need to unlock the power and potential of all that talent, including women, people of different races, ethnicities and socioeconomic status, and those with different physical and cognitive abilities. In other words, they need inclusion.

Agreed. But first and foremost the best qualified person should be the primary candidate regardless of the other factors.

End of comments.



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