Anglo American strategy boss replaces Cutifani as CEO

Duncan Wanblad, CEO of Anglo American. (Image courtesy of Anglo American |Flickr.)

Anglo American (LON: ALL) has named head of strategy Duncan Wanblad as its next chief executive officer, succeeding Mark Cutifani, who will step down after nine years in the post.

The appointment of 54-year old Wanblad hints of a continuation in the line of management at the more than 100-year-old miner. The new boss has spent his whole career at Anglo American and has been key in many of the company’s recent moves, including its exit from thermal coal and its incursion into the fertilizers market with the acquisition of Sirius Minerals.

Wanblad’s nomination marks the first time a South African has run the company since Tony Trahar stepped down in 2007. It’s also the last of a series of expected leadership changes at the world’s biggest miners.

The upcoming CEO began his career at Anglo American in 2008, when he was appointed to head the copper division. In that role, Wanblad drove the development of the Quellaveco copper mine in Peru, which is slated to begin production next year.

Wanblad’s first task will be to execute the growth plans and decarbonization commitments laid out by his predecessor. He’ll face other, less immediate challenges such as mounting cost at the Yorkshire fertilizer project acquired through the buying of Sirius and slowing economic growth in China, which is weighing in iron ore prices.

While Anglo American has less exposure to the steel making material than Rio Tinto and BHP, iron ore makes up more than a third of its earnings.

Tough act to follow

Cutifani, 63, will retire at the company’s annual shareholder meeting in April, but will remain an Anglo American employee until June 2022 to support the management transition, the company said.

The mining veteran, who assumed the role in 2013, will be a tough act to follow. He has navigated Anglo American through one of its most difficult periods, taking it from a market underperformer to posting in July the best half-year profit in the company’s 104-year history.

Anglo’s chair Stuart Chambers said on a call with reporters Wednesday that having a South African at the top post will be “distinctly advantageous”, adding that Wanblad, a mechanical engineer by training, was the “standout candidate regardless of his nationality.”

Wanblad will receive annual basic pay of £1.25 million ($1.71m) plus a bonus of up to 210% of his 2022 salary, provided certain performance targets are met. Half of any award will be deferred into shares, Anglo said.

He will also be eligible for shares worth up to 300% of his basic salary, vesting after three years, under a long-term incentive plan.