Louis von Zeuner. Picture: FINANCIAL MAIL
Louis von Zeuner. Picture: FINANCIAL MAIL

ABSA deputy CEO Louis von Zeuner ended his role as a group executive on Friday after working at the bank for more than three decades.

Mr von Zeuner, who was arguably the longest-serving group executive at Absa, praised incumbent group CEO Maria Ramos as "a fantastic leader".

Mr von Zeuner will remain as a nonexecutive director serving in the group’s credit and risk and social and ethics committees.

He said he had received offers to join a few boards outside financial services, but would continue to mentor and coach upcoming leaders in the banking group.

"One of the highlights of my career was the opportunity I had to work with Maria. She is a fantastic leader and the future will still show the contribution that she is making to the bank," Mr von Zeuner said.

"It’s sorry that people assess success on a very short-term time scale — her pulling off the Africa deal will still show great benefits in future."

Ms Ramos has been credited for combining Absa and Barclays Africa operations in the rest of the continent. The deal, which saw Absa issue R18.3bn for Barclays operations in eight African countries, is her biggest corporate transaction since she was appointed group CEO in 2009.

Mr von Zeuner said he wished Barclays’ acquisition of a controlling stake in Absa in 2005 had come earlier as it would have given him an opportunity to have an international career. Asked if Barclays’ investment changed the culture at Absa, he said: "The changes in South Africa, a global parent company, a customer base much more sophisticated and a demanding regulatory environment have surely changed things."

"Definitely a good thing — it prepared us for being competitive globally and on the continent." Mr von Zeuner said he still had about 300,000 shares at Absa plus some share options. Absa’s shares closed up 2.84% to R153.75 on Friday.