Business community mourns the passing of Vassi Naidoo

On 28 September, the Nedbank chairman and former Deloitte Southern Africa CEO passed away.

The business community of South Africa is mourning the loss of former Deloitte Southern Africa CEO, Nedbank Group chairman and Old Mutual non-executive director Vassi Naidoo, who passed away on 28 September.

Nedbank lead independent director Mpho Makwana, who has been acting chairman since Vassi was placed on medical leave of absence in January 2021, said Vassi brought a wealth of experience and wisdom to the role of chairman of the group and “he will be greatly missed by all at Nedbank who knew him”.

Nedbank CEO Mike Brown said Vassi was a “remarkable individual who was held in the highest regard, both professionally and personally”. He added that, as chairman, Vassi has made an indelible mark on Nedbank and during his long career at Deloitte, he had a lasting influence on the lives of many chartered accountants and the transformation of the accounting profession. “We are grateful for his guidance, leadership and wise counsel,” he added.

Deloitte Africa CEO Lwazi Bam said in a statement that Vassi was a “true legend and guiding light of Deloitte”. “He was one of my heroes and no doubt for many other current and former partners of the firm,” Bam added.

He noted that Vassi was renowned for his work ethic. “During his tenure with Deloitte, Vassi contributed significantly to the firm. He led us through the tumultuous times in the profession in the early 2000s and served the firm with loyalty and dedication throughout his 29 years of service.”

Vassi served as the CEO for Deloitte Southern Africa between 1999 and 2006, and was the first black CEO of a Big Four auditing firm. He joined Deloitte as an article clerk in 1977 and was appointed as a partner in the Durban office in 1984.

Following the end of his term as CEO of Deloitte Southern Africa, Vassi moved to join the Deloitte United Kingdom as a member of their executive committee and was also appointed as the Deloitte global managing partner for talent.

Vassi’s efforts to transform the accounting profession were recognised by the University of KwaZulu-Natal, where he was awarded a Certificate of Commendation by the Faculty of Commerce.

In 2005, he was also made a professor of accounting and auditing at the University of Johannesburg. In 2011, The South African Institute of Chartered Accountants (SAICA) recognised him with an honorary lifetime membership for his contribution to the development of the profession in South Africa.

Vassu was appointed to the board of Nedbank Group as chairman on 11 May 2015. He was also the chairman of the WWF Nedbank Green Trust and a member of the Nedbank Group Directors’ Affairs Committee and the Group Related-party Transactions Committee.

“He has always been considered a pioneer in his field and, he used his position of influence as Nedbank chairman to bring about positive change and dedicated his time to finding ways to improve the lives of every South African including being the catalyst alongside Pravin Gordhan and the late Jabu Mabuza for the CEO Initiative,” said Mike.

Vassi served as chairman of the African Children Feeding Scheme and remained involved following his tenure. “We are extremely proud to have had a leader such as Vassi, who leaves behind a rich legacy of having truly made an impact that matters,” said Bam.

Nedbank said that Mpho will continue to serve as acting chairman of Nedbank and announcements on a permanent chairman and lead independent director will be made in due course.