Cas Coovadia
South Africa
Cas Coovadia
  • Managing Director, The Banking Association of South Africa (BASA) (Banking; Finance)
B.Com, University College Durban (1971)
“You can’t compartmentalize business and government and society and so on – the world has gotten to a space where the success of business, sound governance, and success of society, the ordinary people, are totally interlinked. So if you want to play a leadership role, you’ve got to recognize that, in whatever area of leadership you’re involved in, you’ve got to provide the sort of leadership that that area progresses in a way that actually makes a positive difference in the other areas.”

Summary

Cas Coovadia is Managing Director of the Banking Association of South Africa (BASA). In this interview, Coovadia discusses growing up under the apartheid regime before 1994 coming from an Indian background, the challenges he encountered, his first experience with leadership where he was an anti-apartheid activist at university, and his subsequent experiences as an activist throughout the 1980s. By the early 1990s, Coovadia planned to go into government. He was ranked highly on the African National Congress’s list to stand for Gauteng province (which included Johannesburg and Pretoria) in the country’s first free elections. However, he eventually opted to go into business with the hopes of facilitating economic development and further democracy. He helped form Community Bank, which was South Africa’s first mutual bank. Shortly after, while working at Kagiso, an asset manager, Coovadia was approached to become managing director of BASA in 2007. At BASA, Coovadia focused on widening access to finance and developing financial assets, which he argues is necessary to develop the social economy and improve people’s lives. In the interview, Coovadia discusses the impact of the 2007-2009 global financial crisis on South Africa, which he sees as an economic crisis in that country. While the financial system remained strong because the banks were conservatively managed and the regulator was proactive, the country’s economy decreased by 6.7%. Coovadia then goes on to discuss the challenge of inequality in the country, and the need for business to be conducted in a way that develops society. In this interview, Coovadia talks about the challenges of leadership in the contemporary context. Democracy and globalization are now being challenged, whilst South Africa has experienced growing ethical collapse, the erosion of legitimate institutions, and state capture by corrupt business interests under President Zuma between 2009 and 2018. Coovadia describes the role of Business Unity South Africa, for which he became CEO in April 2020, in advocating for an appropriate macroeconomic environment for growth, development, and investment in the country. To conclude this interview, Coovadia discusses gender diversity and the need to include more women on boards, the necessity of the Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment program, and the need for the transformation of South African society as a whole.

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Cas Coovadia is Managing Director of the Banking Association of South Africa (BASA). In this interview, Coovadia discusses growing up under the apartheid regime before 1994 coming from an Indian background, the challenges he encountered, his first experience with leadership where he was an anti-apartheid activist at university, and his subsequent experiences as an activist throughout the 1980s. By the early 1990s, Coovadia planned to go into government. He was ranked highly on the African National Congress’s list to stand for Gauteng province (which included Johannesburg and Pretoria) in the country’s first free elections. However, he eventually opted to go into business with the hopes of facilitating economic development and further democracy. He helped form Community Bank, which was South Africa’s first mutual bank. Shortly after, while working at Kagiso, an asset manager, Coovadia was approached to become managing director of BASA in 2007. At BASA, Coovadia focused on widening access to finance and developing financial assets, which he argues is necessary to develop the social economy and improve people’s lives. In the interview, Coovadia discusses the impact of the 2007-2009 global financial crisis on South Africa, which he sees as an economic crisis in that country. While the financial system remained strong because the banks were conservatively managed and the regulator was proactive, the country’s economy decreased by 6.7%. Coovadia then goes on to discuss the challenge of inequality in the country, and the need for business to be conducted in a way that develops society. In this interview, Coovadia talks about the challenges of leadership in the contemporary context. Democracy and globalization are now being challenged, whilst South Africa has experienced growing ethical collapse, the erosion of legitimate institutions, and state capture by corrupt business interests under President Zuma between 2009 and 2018. Coovadia describes the role of Business Unity South Africa, for which he became CEO in April 2020, in advocating for an appropriate macroeconomic environment for growth, development, and investment in the country. To conclude this interview, Coovadia discusses gender diversity and the need to include more women on boards, the necessity of the Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment program, and the need for the transformation of South African society as a whole.
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Video Clips by Topic

Ethnicity and Race

Cas Coovadia, the long-running Managing Director of the Banking Association South Africa, argues that the government needs proactive policies to support the Black community because of the discrimination it experienced under apartheid.


Gender

Cas Coovadia, the long-running Managing Director of the Banking Association South Africa, discusses the reasons for the lack of gender diversity in South African financial services, and calls for deliberate action to overcome this.

Keywords: Gender


Responding to Crises

Cas Coovadia, the long-running Managing Director of the Banking Association South Africa, discusses how the global financial crisis of 2008 impacted South Africa as mainly an economic crisis as the banking system stayed sound, but it did lead to much more regulation.



Social Impact (1)

 Cas Coovadia, the long-running Managing Director of the Banking Association South Africa, discusses his transition from being a political activist opposing banks during the era of apartheid, into a strong believer that banks can be an agent of social change.



Social Impact (2)

Cas Coovadia, the long-running Managing Director of the Banking Association South Africa, discusses how the banking sector has been crucial to financing SMEs and providing low cost housing, and gives his belief that business must serve society and reduce societal tensions.



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Additional Resources

Interview Citation Format

Interview with Cas Coovadia, interviewed by Euvin Naidoo, Johannesburg, South Africa, January 13, 2020, Creating Emerging Markets Oral History Collection, Baker Library Special Collections, Harvard Business School.