CAPE TOWN – Athol Williams, a partner at Bain & Company’s global Sustainability & Corporate Responsibility, shook the finance professionals industry when he publicly resigned from the global management consultancy firm on Thursday.
Williams’s resignation formed part of his keynote address on rebuilding after lies and corruption to 6 000 finance professionals at the 2019 Finance Indaba in Sandton, where he also addressed the difference between standing by and keeping silent in a time when the country is in a moral crisis.
Williams, a poet, author and strategist, delivered a strong message to finance professionals and challenged the audience to consider what they could do in their own situations to stem the tide of corruption.
“I believe we’re in a moral moment, a moral crisis and that requires some very serious action and response from finance professionals,” he said. Referring to companies implicated in state capture, he asked the audience, “If you worked for one of those companies, what would you do? What have you been doing? Some of us do work at those companies, or for companies where similar things are happening, and we need to think about what we are doing about what’s going on around us.”
Williams joined Bain in 2019 as a partner in Bain & Company’s Johannesburg office. He is a member of the firm’s global Sustainability & Corporate Responsibility practice.
He was tasked with leading the firm’s corporate responsibility practice locally and oversee the implementation of Bain’s remedy plan in South Africa. He also served on the Bain Africa Oversight Board.
Williams, an experienced senior executive and expert in corporate responsibility and business strategy, as well as a regular public commentator on social justice and nation-building, previously worked in Bain’s Boston, London and Johannesburg offices for varying periods between 1996 and 2010.
Williams is a multiple-award-winning author of 11 books and a youth literacy activist through Read to Rise, the NGO he founded in 2013.
Bain & Company made headlines late 2018 after the final report on malfeasance at the South African Revenue Service (Sars) hit out at the conduct of the consulting firm for enabling its near-collapse.
In a scathing report, Judge Robert Nugent said Bain & Company had let down the people of South Africa. Evidence before the commission told a disturbing story about Bain & Company and the work it did on the ill-fated restructuring of Sars after now-fired Sars commissioner Tom Moyane took over in 2014.