* Mminele steps down just over a year into job
* Absa cites disagreement over strategy, culture
* CFO appointed interim CEO with immediate effect
* Bank’s shares fall as much as 5% (Adds chairwoman comments, updates shares)
JOHANNESBURG, April 20 (Reuters) - Absa Chief Executive Daniel Mminele has stepped down, the bank said on Tuesday, a shock departure just 15 months into his post that sent shares in one of Africa’s biggest lenders down as much as 5%.
Mminele, a former deputy central bank governor who took the reins at Absa from long-time boss Maria Ramos in January 2020, was tasked with delivering on a turnaround strategy that had largely been laid down prior to his arrival.
Mminele, who will be replaced on an interim basis by Chief Financial Officer Jason Quinn, is leaving after disagreements with the board about strategy and culture change, Absa said, after earlier announcing that the board was in talks with him about his departure.
Absa has been trying to improve performance since splitting from its former British parent Barclays in 2017. Its efforts have in the past year begun bearing fruit, with the bank winning back lost market share in key products like mortgages.
Differences of opinion were delaying the pace of change, Absa Chairwoman Wendy Lucas-Bull told Reuters in an interview.
“When you’ve got uncertainty at the top you can’t drive things at pace, and the longer that that continued the more we were putting the business at risk,” she said.
She said the board would only consider a new CEO appointment after determining what went wrong, adding it was not yet clear whether the bank would look at internal or external candidates.
Mminele, who started at Absa a few months before the coronavirus pandemic took hold, said it was “regrettable” that he had to part with the bank so soon but said it was important that the CEO and board were aligned.
Absa investors, caught off guard by the announcement, said his departure created uncertainty, with one top 10 investor saying they were engaging with board over this “serious matter”.
Another major investor said the bank’s commitment to existing strategy was welcome. “The fact that ... execution on that strategy is continuing is probably a good thing,” the person said.
Mminele’s replacement, Quinn, has been at Absa since 2008 and its CFO since 2016. He was previously a partner at accounting firm Ernst & Young. A new CFO would be announced in coming days, the bank said.
Absa shares were down 4.75% at 1212 GMT.
Reporting by Emma Rumney; Editing by Jason Neely and Edmund Blair