Maria Ramos will step down at the end of February after ten years as chief executive of Absa and Barclays Africa. The announcement seems sudden and leaves Absa without an incoming chief executive to replace her. Absa and Mrs Ramos insist that she planned to retire earlier but held on to see through the divestment from Barclays. ""It had never been my intention to stay this long, as I have always believed that a CEO's tenure should allow for a regular refresh," Ramos said in a media release. "My earlier intentions to step down were curtailed by Barclays's 2016 decision to sell down their controlling stake, a unique set of circumstances that required continuity. So with my coming 60th birthday, I have made the decision to leave the position open for a new CE to lead the group on the next leg of its exciting journey." Mrs Ramos served as an economist with the ANC and her husband Trevor Manuel served as Minister of Finance from 1996 to 2009. She was also chief executive of transport service Transnet and served as Director-General of the National Treasury. Some expect Ms Ramos to take another turn at public service. At Absa, René van Wyk will take over as interim chief executive until a permanent replacement is found.
People of the online are all shook up about Facebook's decision to merge its messaging services across Messenger, WhatsApp and Instagram, and with good reason. Messenger doesn't need your phone number to work, but Facebook tries every trick to persuade users to share it (usually as a security feature, to recover your account, for example). WhatsApp knows your number. Instagram doesn't. But Messenger and Instagram require more personal information. Together, they are getting a good picture of the person. So, what's ultimately going on here? We suspect that Facebook, in crisis, is accelerating its plans to function as payment and shopping rails. Facebook is already allowing WhatsApp to work with banks for sending money (including Absa) while Messenger is trialling payments in India, and Facebook hopes to turn Instagram into a giant online shopping mall. However, the EU Data Protection Commission is urgently seeking a meeting with Facebook because the move will have to comply with GDPR. Facebook's stated intention to protect WhatsApp users from encroachment now looks like a falsehood.
Today in Brexit-land, there's another vote coming before the House of Commons, this time on Theresa May's plan B for Brexit. The UK government is still trying to decide on which deal to offer the EU, which keeps telling the UK that the deal has already been agreed. Despite a historic defeat for Ms May's Plan A in early January, the Tories and DUP are back for more with a plan B that looks the same as Plan A except for the removal of a fee for non-UK citizens to apply to stay post-Brexit. The EU is now acting as though a no-deal is likely. In other news that harks back to an earlier era, Lloyds Bank unveiled its new 100 percent mortgage offer, in partnership with the unofficial bank of Mom and Dad. The offer is conditional on a buyer's family moving five percent of the purchase price into the buyer's account, meaning that it's only useful for those whose parents have liquid assets. "The Lloyds move marks a major expansion into the first-time buyer market, as most other mainstream lenders demand a minimum deposit worth 5% of the property purchase price, although Barclays has offered a similar 'family springboard' deal," the Guardian notes. "Lloyds has priced the mortgages to undercut the Barclays offer." The 100 percent mortgage was last with us prior to the last financial crash.
In other news, Iran is reported to be preparing a crypto Rial — will it be part of a new sanctions-busting regime employed by Iran, Russia and Venezuela? Watch this space.
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