Peter Wharton-Hood
South Africa
Peter Wharton-Hood
  • Group Chief Executive, Life Healthcare Limited; Former Group Chief Operating Officer and Group Deputy Chief Executive, Standard Bank Group; Former Global Chief Operating Officer, Deutsche Bank (CIB); Former Chief Executive Deutsche Bank (South Africa) (Healthcare; Finance; Banking)
Born Johannesburg, South Africa, 1965; Bachelor of Commerce (BCom), University of Witwatersrand (1989); Advanced Management Program 172, Harvard Business School (2007).
“You need an organizational complexity that is representative of a diverse enterprise in order to succeed.”

Summary

Peter Wharton-Hood was the former Group Chief Operating Officer and Group Deputy Chief Executive of Standard Bank Group, the former Chief Executive and Chief Country Officer for Deutsche Bank in South Africa, and the former Global Chief Operating Officer at Deutsche Bank, London. He was appointed the Group Chief Executive of the Life Healthcare Group, a diversified healthcare organization in September 2020. It is one of the leading listed private hospital groups in South Africa, and internationally, is a leading independent provider of medical imaging services operating in more than 10 countries across Europe

In this interview, Wharton-Hood reflects on growing up in the white supremacist apartheid era in South Africa. After graduating from the University of Witwatersrand in 1989, he entered the business world just as Nelson Mandela was released from prison in 1990. In 1992, after a brief stint first working as an articled clerk at PricewaterhouseCoopers, he joined Edcon, a large clothing company retailer based in Johannesburg, as the Group Finance Executive. In this interview, Wharton-Hood explains that in 1994, the country had its first democratic elections, but it took the business sector a long time to begin to transform. He explains that once they did, there were significant capital flows into the country and opportunities emerged as the Black middle class became more affluent. After being at Edcon for five years, in 1997, Wharton-Hood joined Standard Bank, which had a storied history in South Africa, including being the first bank to install ATMs in 1981.

Starting at Standard Bank as the Finance Director of Standard Corporate and Merchant Bank, Wharton-Hood worked his way up through various roles including the Director of the Group of Technology and E-Commerce, Managing Director of Retail Banking, Chief Executive of Retail Banking and Head of Group’s African Operations, Chief Executive of Global Personal and Business Banking, and Group Chief Operating Officer and Group Deputy Chief Executive. In this interview, Wharton-Hood explains that when he first arrived at Standard Bank in 1997, it was a sleeping giant, rated fourth out of the four big banks in South Africa. It was the target of a hostile takeover attempt by Nedcor in the late 1990s. This unwelcome approach prompted major organization and management changes at Standard Bank that ultimately enabled them to thwart Nedcor’s bid. Among the most important of the changes at Standard Bank was a new interest in technology. Wharton-Hood describes setting up an innovation team, which with the help of Belarus-based IBM developers, was able to put together in the early 2000s an internet-banking platform called BlueBean in just nine months. However Wharton-Hood explains that although BlueBean was a great technology solution, customers were not interested, and it took many years to make a profit. Wharton-Hood then moves on to discuss effective leadership, Standard Bank’s expansion process into neighboring countries, the growth of Standard’s retail bank, and the importance of a sustainable lending strategy.

In this interview, Wharton-Hood discusses events of the late 1990s and early 2000s, including the Broad-Based Black Empowerment Act (BBBEE) of 2003, from the perspective of a white South African male business executive. He reflects on Standard Bank’s transition to the new regime, and states that while many organizations struggled, Standard saw BBBEE as necessary to create a sustainable society going forward. Wharton-Hood goes into detail about Standard Bank’s Financial Sector Charter, which embraced the responsibility to change across a wide range of dimensions. Instead of designing the charter to simply put Black South Africans into jobs occupied by white people, the charter focused on financial inclusion. Banking had previously been largely inaccessible for Blacks, as they were largely denied loans, and there were no branches in towns. Wharton-Hood describes how a coalition of banks created Mzansi, which made banking accessible to millions of low-income Black customers at affordable fees. In this interview, Wharton-Hood stresses the importance and power of diverse teams, how he was able to bring Black bankers into Standard Bank, and how he retained these employees. The bank proved less successful at pursuing gender diversity.

Wharton-Hood also discusses Standard Bank’s international expansion. In 2006, Standard Bank expanded into Argentina after purchasing the local affiliate of BankBoston, which had been acquired by Bank of America just as Argentina was emerging from one of its periodic crises. Wharton-Hood explains that this decision was made based upon its learnings throughout Africa which showed that post-crisis, banks that are correctly positioned can be very profitable. Wharton-Hood then discusses the 2008-2009 global financial crisis and why South African banks remained relatively solid and well capitalized.

In 2013, Wharton-Hood left Standard Bank and joined Deutsche Bank as the Chief Executive and Chief Country Officer of South Africa, and eventually worked his way up to Chief Global Operating Officer. In this interview, he describes what pushed him to join Deutsche, how he was able to make South Africa relevant to such a big institution, and the significant pressure the banks faced as a result of the financial crisis. He then shares his thoughts on how to manage risk, how to manage entrepreneurship inside big corporations, and his insights on cultural change and transformation within an organization.

In August 2020, Wharton-Hood was appointed Chief Executive of Life Healthcare. He describes what it was like to start this position in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic and without a background in healthcare. To conclude the interview, Wharton-Hood compares what inclusion means in both banking and in healthcare, and explores the role of data in healthcare.

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Peter Wharton-Hood was the former Group Chief Operating Officer and Group Deputy Chief Executive of Standard Bank Group, the former Chief Executive and Chief Country Officer for Deutsche Bank in South Africa, and the former Global Chief Operating Officer at Deutsche Bank, London. He was appointed the Group Chief Executive of the Life Healthcare Group, a diversified healthcare organization in September 2020. It is one of the leading listed private hospital groups in South Africa, and internationally, is a leading independent provider of medical imaging services operating in more than 10 countries across Europe

In this interview, Wharton-Hood reflects on growing up in the white supremacist apartheid era in South Africa. After graduating from the University of Witwatersrand in 1989, he entered the business world just as Nelson Mandela was released from prison in 1990. In 1992, after a brief stint first working as an articled clerk at PricewaterhouseCoopers, he joined Edcon, a large clothing company retailer based in Johannesburg, as the Group Finance Executive. In this interview, Wharton-Hood explains that in 1994, the country had its first democratic elections, but it took the business sector a long time to begin to transform. He explains that once they did, there were significant capital flows into the country and opportunities emerged as the Black middle class became more affluent. After being at Edcon for five years, in 1997, Wharton-Hood joined Standard Bank, which had a storied history in South Africa, including being the first bank to install ATMs in 1981.

Starting at Standard Bank as the Finance Director of Standard Corporate and Merchant Bank, Wharton-Hood worked his way up through various roles including the Director of the Group of Technology and E-Commerce, Managing Director of Retail Banking, Chief Executive of Retail Banking and Head of Group’s African Operations, Chief Executive of Global Personal and Business Banking, and Group Chief Operating Officer and Group Deputy Chief Executive. In this interview, Wharton-Hood explains that when he first arrived at Standard Bank in 1997, it was a sleeping giant, rated fourth out of the four big banks in South Africa. It was the target of a hostile takeover attempt by Nedcor in the late 1990s. This unwelcome approach prompted major organization and management changes at Standard Bank that ultimately enabled them to thwart Nedcor’s bid. Among the most important of the changes at Standard Bank was a new interest in technology. Wharton-Hood describes setting up an innovation team, which with the help of Belarus-based IBM developers, was able to put together in the early 2000s an internet-banking platform called BlueBean in just nine months. However Wharton-Hood explains that although BlueBean was a great technology solution, customers were not interested, and it took many years to make a profit. Wharton-Hood then moves on to discuss effective leadership, Standard Bank’s expansion process into neighboring countries, the growth of Standard’s retail bank, and the importance of a sustainable lending strategy.

In this interview, Wharton-Hood discusses events of the late 1990s and early 2000s, including the Broad-Based Black Empowerment Act (BBBEE) of 2003, from the perspective of a white South African male business executive. He reflects on Standard Bank’s transition to the new regime, and states that while many organizations struggled, Standard saw BBBEE as necessary to create a sustainable society going forward. Wharton-Hood goes into detail about Standard Bank’s Financial Sector Charter, which embraced the responsibility to change across a wide range of dimensions. Instead of designing the charter to simply put Black South Africans into jobs occupied by white people, the charter focused on financial inclusion. Banking had previously been largely inaccessible for Blacks, as they were largely denied loans, and there were no branches in towns. Wharton-Hood describes how a coalition of banks created Mzansi, which made banking accessible to millions of low-income Black customers at affordable fees. In this interview, Wharton-Hood stresses the importance and power of diverse teams, how he was able to bring Black bankers into Standard Bank, and how he retained these employees. The bank proved less successful at pursuing gender diversity.

Wharton-Hood also discusses Standard Bank’s international expansion. In 2006, Standard Bank expanded into Argentina after purchasing the local affiliate of BankBoston, which had been acquired by Bank of America just as Argentina was emerging from one of its periodic crises. Wharton-Hood explains that this decision was made based upon its learnings throughout Africa which showed that post-crisis, banks that are correctly positioned can be very profitable. Wharton-Hood then discusses the 2008-2009 global financial crisis and why South African banks remained relatively solid and well capitalized.

In 2013, Wharton-Hood left Standard Bank and joined Deutsche Bank as the Chief Executive and Chief Country Officer of South Africa, and eventually worked his way up to Chief Global Operating Officer. In this interview, he describes what pushed him to join Deutsche, how he was able to make South Africa relevant to such a big institution, and the significant pressure the banks faced as a result of the financial crisis. He then shares his thoughts on how to manage risk, how to manage entrepreneurship inside big corporations, and his insights on cultural change and transformation within an organization.

In August 2020, Wharton-Hood was appointed Chief Executive of Life Healthcare. He describes what it was like to start this position in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic and without a background in healthcare. To conclude the interview, Wharton-Hood compares what inclusion means in both banking and in healthcare, and explores the role of data in healthcare.
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Video Clips by Topic

Hood - Ethnicity and Race

Peter Wharton-Hood, a former senior executive at Standard Bank and Deutsche Bank in South Africa, discusses how Standard Bank responded to Black Economic Empowerment in the 1990s, which included allaying the fears of incumbent white staff that they would lose their jobs.


Hood - Global Expansion

Peter Wharton-Hood, a former senior executive at Standard Bank and Deutsche Bank in South Africa, discusses Standard Bank’s expansion in Africa beyond South Africa during the 2000s, which involved a heavy focus on expanding lending in markets in which it entered.


Hood - Innovation

Peter Wharton-Hood, a former senior executive at Standard Bank and Deutsche Bank in South Africa, discusses how a failed takeover attempt prompted Standard Bank in South Africa to invest in a range of new banking technologies, including an internet banking system which was technically great but lacked consumer appeal.


Hood - Responding to Crises

Peter Wharton-Hood, a former senior executive at Standard Bank and Deutsche Bank in South Africa, describes how Standard Bank responded to the global financial crisis in 2008/9, and notes the importance of South Africa’s competent regulatory system.


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Additional Resources

Additional Resources

Interview Citation Format

Interview with Peter Wharton-Hood, interviewed by Euvin Naidoo, Boston, Massachusetts, USA and Johannesburg, South Africa, March 8, 2021, Creating Emerging Markets Oral History Collection, Baker Library Special Collections, Harvard Business School.