FirstRand Names Celliers CEO of Retail Bank as Jordaan Exits

FirstRand Ltd., South Africa’s second-largest bank, said Jacques Celliers will replace Michael Jordaan as chief executive officer of its consumer-banking unit at the end of this year.

FirstRand shares declined after the Johannesburg-based company appointed Celliers, who is CEO of First National Bank’s Business Banking and oversees the lender’s expansion into India. Celliers, 41, who has been with the company for 12 years, previously ran FNB’s credit card and retail foreign-exchange businesses, the bank said in a statement today.

FNB, which has expanded into the continent beyond South Africa, contributed more than half of FirstRand’s profit in the six months through December with a return on equity of 36 percent. FirstRand undertook a “rigorous” selection process before choosing Celliers after Jordaan indicated his intention to step down in 2010, said CEO Sizwe Nxasana.

“People don’t know him as well as Michael,” Patrice Rassou, head of equities at Sanlam Investment Management in Cape Town, said in an e-mailed response to questions. “The share price reaction is more testimony to Michael’s stardom and excellent track record than anything bad about Jacques.”

FirstRand fell 1.7 percent to 31.11 rand in Johannesburg, the biggest decline among South Africa’s four largest banks.

Innovative Thinking

“Celliers has demonstrated a unique ability to bring innovative thinking to both the strategic opportunities and operational challenges of retail and commercial banking,” FirstRand said in the statement.

No significant change of strategy is envisaged in plans being drawn up now, said Jordaan, adding that FNB cut back on lending in time to offset tougher economic conditions that are making it harder for consumers to repay loans.

“From a strategy perspective, we’re having such good growth that the challenge is to maintain that growth,” Celliers told reporters in Johannesburg today.

Jordaan is stepping down after 10 years as CEO to spend more time with his family on their wine farm near Cape Town.

“Family, travel and entrepreneurship based on innovation” are part of the future plans, Jordaan said in an e-mailed response to questions. He may become a non-executive director of FirstRand, he said.