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Michael Jordaan

Ex FNB head honcho Michael Jordaan named Mxit chairman

This is big. Former FNB CEO Micheal Jordaan has been appointed chairman of mobile social network Mxit.

Stuart Thomas: Motorburn Editor
Stuart Thomas joined the Burn Media team in 2011 while finishing off an MA in South African Literature. Eager to prove his geek credentials, he allowed himself... More

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Jordaan, who retired from FNB after a decade in the top job, has close ties to some of the company’s largest shareholders, having served as Rand Merchant Bank co-founder Paul Harris’ personal assistant in the mid 1990s.

“Having a business heavyweight of Jordaan’s calibre on the board of directors is no doubt a sign of great things to come from Mxit,” said Harris.

In Jordaan’s time as FNB CEO, the bank introduced a number of innovations — it was the first in South Africa to introduce an app, for instance — and was named the world’s most innovative bank in 2012.

Given Jordaan’s tech savvy — he has over 30 000 followers on Twitter and was CEO of FNB’s virtual rewards system eBucks when it launched in the early 2000s — it makes sense that a technology company like Mxit would appeal to him.

“I have been watching Mxit with interest for several years now,” he said in an official press release. “It is difficult not to have a sense of pride about a homegrown South African company making such an impact in the social media and mobile space. It was an easy decision to join as chairman and I am looking forward to playing a part in the future of Mxit, both in South Africa and internationally”.

It looks like Mxit has been working on getting Jordaan on board for a while now.

“Mxit is a really cool company and has built some world-first innovations over the last eight years,” Jordaan said. “I have spent some time with their development and design team and they have shown me some of the projects they are working on, especially in the smart phone space. I look forward to the announcements that are planned over the next few months”.

“Michael’s appointment is a great coup for us. I am sure he has been inundated with offers, and to become part of the Mxit team is a vindication of the direction we have taken and the innovation that is happening within Mxit,” said Mxit CEO Francois Swart.

Swart himself was recently officially appointed Mxit CEO, having done the job in an acting capacity since Alan-Knott Craig Jr stepped down from the post in late 2012.

Speaking to Memeburn, Jordaan said his role would primarily to support Swart and act as a guiding hand for the company’s strategy. “I see the role of the chairman as interrogating strategy and setting up the CEO Francois for success,” he said.

That was hardly surprising given his strong financial background and that he had already been a leader in the company under Knott-Craig. The first of these factors also means he should work well with a board under Jordaan.

Interestingly though, Jordaan doesn’t seem all that interested in Mxit’s potential as a financial platform and is apparently more interested in how it can help people.

“One specific aspect of Mxit that I believe is unique is how Mxit is leveraging their technology to help people, particularly in the fields of mobile education and health care,” he said.

The Mxit Jordaan steps into is also one that appears to be on the up again. The mobile social network currently has around 7.4-million active monthly users, up from just over six-million a couple of months back.

Mxit users are also still seriously devoted to the app, spending an average of just over an hour and a half on Mxit every day and sending an average of 400-million daily messages.

Jordaan takes over from Roger Grobler, who remains on the board as non-executive director. The former FNB CEO says that he is broadly comfortable the existing strategy as set by Grobler.

“What needs to happen now,” Jordaan told us “is to relaunch/ rejuvenate the Mxit brand, together with the launch of smartphone applications. Then we need to grow the 7-million user base aggressively by expanding to the rest of Africa and India”.