The South African financial sector largely proved resilient to the consequences of the global financial crisis and did not experience the financial upheaval seen in advanced economies. This paper investigated and compared the strategic stance and actions employed by eight South African banks listed on the Johannesburg Securities Exchange in response to the global crisis. The research was conducted through content analysis of the annual reports of these banks for the periods 2006 through 2011. Findings illustrated that, although structural and industry drivers played a key role in ensuring the relatively unscathed survival of SA banks, banks generally had a clear corporate strategic direction that remained relatively stable during the financial crisis. It was found that the industry was balanced in terms of the strategic positioning of banks. Of the eight banks, four were classified as strong niche players that were categorised as “defenders”. The big four banks were classified into two groups. ABSA and Nedbank were categorised as “analysers”, since they are generally cautious and conservative in their growth and expansion strategies. FirstRand and Standard Bank were classified as prospectors, since they tend to be more open to new opportunities.
Key words: Financial sector, strategic stance, defenders, analysers, prospectors.
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