The appointment of Sim Tshabalala as the first sole black CEO of Standard Bank has been met with praise amid stern criticism of the slow pace of transformation in South Africa's big four banks.
Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba said his appointment is a "step in the right direction" in addressing the "slow pace of transformation in the financial sector".
"This is truly an affirmation of the capacity of black professionals," he said.
Tshabalala is now the only black person to lead one of the country's biggest banks since former head of FirstRand Ltd, Sizwe Nxasana, stepped down in March 2015. Prior to being appointed sole CEO, Tshabalala was part of a joint leadership structure from 2013 alongside Ben Kruger who stepped down from the position this week.
His appointment has been met with widespread enthusiasm, including by Tshabalala's alma mater, Rhodes University.
"We are extremely proud of Mr Tshabalala's achievements. As institutions of higher learning we have a duty to prepare graduates who can add value and contribute meaningfully to the transformation of our great country. Mr Tshabalala epitomises this objective," Rhodes' Vice Chancellor Dr Sizwe Mabizela said in a statement.
Tshabalala bagged the university's Old Rhodian award as early as 2006 for his "outstanding performance in the finance sector". From Hlabisa, a poor rural area in KwaZulu-Natal, where he was born to growing up in Soweto, Tshabalala climbed up the ranks, eventually being appointed chief executive of Standard Bank South Africa by 2008. In 2013, he was appointed joint CEO of the group-at-large alongside Ben Kruger.
Messages of congratulations spread on social media on Tuesday following the announcement.
Well done Sim Tshabalala becoming the 1st black sole CEO of a major Bank in SA. The largest Bank in terms of Assets👏👏👏— Fraser (@fraserbatsi) September 12, 2017
Shine Sim Tshabalala SHINE - u have been groomed by the best & no doubt that you will deliver to drive Africa's growth.#BlackExcellence— Palesa Kobi (@iamtheelioness) September 12, 2017
"Sim Tshabalala" a well deserving CEO who is a quiet trailblazer! Sim doesn't need a baby-sitter, good for you @StandardBankZA— ConnieMotshumi (@ConnieMotshumi) September 13, 2017
Sim Tshabalala is the definition of #BlackExcellence— ☺Kwenzakwenkosi☺© (@ZamahZikalala) September 12, 2017
We see ourselves in Sim Tshabalala ✊— Zusipe (@batyizusipe) September 13, 2017
Others on social media said Tshabalala's appointment as sole CEO was long overdue and the pace of transformation more broadly is too slow:
Sim should've been made CEO when Jacko retired! An obvious demotion for Ben, who has no *clear* role from this point https://t.co/En6mVDrI1b— Hilton Tarrant (@hiltontarrant) September 12, 2017
Finally! I didn't understand the joint CEO decision. Congratulations to Sim Tshabalala. Black Excellence!https://t.co/GgOvM9ELqv— Miss Ducasse (@Karabo_Ducasse) September 12, 2017
My congratulations goes to Standard Bank for coming to their senses. We all know Sim Tshabalala was capable all along.— Artful Dodger (@ThamiMkhonza2) September 12, 2017
Congratulations Sim Tshabalala we will celebrate your success as much as possible. BUT we need more BLACK in influential roles.— Kumkani (@kalipaml) September 12, 2017
Sim Tshabalala was undermined by splitting his position as CEO it was never supposed to happen. Now we congratulating a fish for swimming.— Tbo Touch (@iamtbotouch) September 12, 2017
Standard Bank expressed its appreciation to both Kruger and Tshabalala for "successfully [leading] the process of refreshing the group's strategy and managing complex challenges" faced by the group.
"The resounding success of the joint-group chief executive structure is testament to the group's culture and values which include working in teams, respecting each other and upholding the highest levels of integrity. Good momentum has been achieved in the implementation of the group's refreshed strategy," said Standard Bank Group Chairman Thulani Gcabashe in a statement on Tuesday.