African Bank CEO placement the first sole mandate for a black-female-owned SA search company

Yoni Titi Human Capital successfully placed Kennedy Bungane into the role of CEO of African Bank.

Yoni Titi Human Capital is the first black-female-owned search company to be given the sole mandate to identify suitable candidates for the role of CEO of African Bank. The company has successfully placed executive banker Kennedy Bungane as the new CEO.

Yoni Titi founded the company in 2008. She is an Edinburgh Business School MBA graduate in International Business as well as a legal graduate with a corporate career that spans from Bowman Gilfillan to Investec Bank and First National Bank.

Commenting on being awarded the African Bank recruitment mandate, Yoni says, “This was my toughest assignment by far. I was of course also made nervous by the ‘noise’ in the market and appreciated how this assignment had the interest of many stakeholders. I began with a market mapping exercise of top African candidates who had the right combination of skills to lead a bank which, as part of its strategy, is to shift from micro-lending but be a competitor to other Tier 1 Banks and also use product innovation, customer-centricity and its existing client base for more growth.”

She explains that market mapping involves presenting the client with a long list of potential candidates who meet the role requirements and this, once presented to the board, allows the search firm to produce their first shortlist.

“With 13 years’ experience in recruitment, fortunately I had some names in mind that have such proven track records. After I had shortlisted from the longlist to five candidates it was then up to the board to make a final shortlist of three candidates. As this is a regulated appointment requiring sign-off by the Prudential Authority, the stakes were high. The search was really for the Rolls Royce in banking.”

Identifying the candidate
Equipped with a thorough briefing by the board, Yoni then went to market with the information and vision of the bank. She says that one lesson she learnt in the process was, “You will never know if you don’t ask.”

“That call to Kennedy Bungane to position this role still brings me such laughter,” she says. “It did feel like a six-year-old being called to the principal’s office! But with his personality, humour and approachable manner, Kennedy made this easy, and here we are with Yoni Titi Human Capital having earned the bank the top candidate for the role.”

Yoni says the other stage they went through was the psychometric assessments that would assist the bank to understand not only the strengths of the top candidate but also their preferred working style and any areas of development.

“This is crucial for a board to understand and know how best to work with their CEO,” she says. “When they were satisfied, the proposal for the appointment of the CEO needed the approval of the Prudential Authority. The market suspense was high at this stage as the level of confidentiality on a market-sensitive placement is higher.

“The executive search space in South Africa continues to be dominated by global executive search firms,” says Yoni. “To imagine that as a 100 percent black-owned company it took 13 years of perseverance to land such a mandate is testimony to this. This white-dominated space has only been open to black recruiters via employment in these firms rather than there being fair consideration of local firms or even transformed companies such as ours to be considered.”

She attributes her sole mandate for African Bank to the vision of chairman of the board Thabo Dloti, who is a champion of transformation in the corporate services and business sector and supports the emergence of black- and women-led professional services providers. “He has been a game changer in this space,” she says.

Recruitment in a post-Covid-19 world
“Covid-19 has been a time for every recruitment company to go into panic mode,” says Yoni. “No one was prepared for what the pandemic would do to this industry. I predict that we’ll see recruitment firms merging to stay in business. We will definitely be pushed to reduce recruitment fees even further than what they have been reduced to.

“The differentiator from one recruiter to the next will be their business acumen to understand the industries in which our clients operate, and the ability to fully understand and engage on both the vision and strategy of the organisation and thus identify a fit for any client. It will also rely on tapping into contacts that we have worked with over the years for business opportunities. Clients are not looking for 10 CVs per role, but rather high-quality ‘top three’ candidates as per their brief and market understanding.”