By Ayoola Ajanaku
Some moons ago one of Africa’s most illustrious bankers, Herbert Wigwe and his business partner Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede set out on a trajectory in 2002 that led to the acquisition of Access Bank which was at the time a small commercial bank. Value-centric DNA is a key characterization that defines the entity christened Herbert Wigwe who cut his teeth at Coopers & Lybrand, Capital Bank then Guaranty Trust Bank Plc.
He succeeded Aig-Imoukhuede as MD/CEO in January 2014. When he took over the leadership mantle of Access Bank, the Bank was number five. Today, that bank is arguably number one in terms of parameters such as share capital, loans, deposits, reach and customer satisfaction because of his dedication, commitment, discipline, and expertise that’s evident for all and sundry to witness.
The bank’s growth and expansion over the years is exemplified in the multi-billion-naira merger with Diamond Bank and the acquisition of Intercontinental Bank Plc much earlier. An inspirational leader personified par excellence and one of Africa’s brightest minds in the financial sector. Wigwe has exhibited a strong bandwidth to engineer and transform for the big stage, as seen in how he transformed Access Bank into one of Nigeria’s top five banking institutions with tentacles spread across sub-Saharan Africa and beyond.
Today, with a turnover of N971bn and a net profit of N16bn for the 2021 Fiscal Year. Access Bank is not just a Tier-I Bank; it has branches across Africa, which provide jobs for thousands across the continent. The financial institution with a keen eye on facilitating trade and commerce across the board also boasts of a presence in Paris, France and London, United Kingdom. Herbert Wigwe has driven a sustainability mantra where part of its continued growth strategy, Access Bank is focused on mainstreaming sustainable business practices into its operations with support to women-led MSME’s and issuance of Green Bonds with its offshore partner, FMO Netherlands.
Wigwe’s leadership is authentic and in the ever-changing ecosystem of Nigerian banking, he rides the tides of the industry, thus dictating the pace of change and influencing the thought of his time. Not long ago, he led the drive that led Access Bank Plc to morph into a holding company structure (HOLDCO) with multifaceted value offerings to the market(s). He oversees this newfound entity as the head honcho, while his former deputy MD, Roosevelt Ogbonna has assumed the mantle as CEO of Access Bank Plc.
On this day, as Herbert marks his 56th birthday it is important to note his role in the private sector Coalition Against Covid-19 (CACOVID) where he held sway to direct the affairs of this initiative to alleviate the effects of the deadly virus in Nigeria. CACOVID interventions, the coalition helped to either build Isolation centres or donated medical equipment and PPEs to states that have isolation centres. CACOVID presence expanded to cover all 36 states in Nigeria and the FCT.
Another window through which Herbert Wigwe has engineered groundbreaking moves is the vehicle to support UNICEF towards its projects for orphans and vulnerable children with Fifth Chukker Polo and Country Club via the construction of over 100 classrooms with requisite facilities to boost education in Kaduna State. At the recently concluded Access Bank UK Polo Day, in London, it witnessed the raising of over 1.7 million US dollars to broaden the scope of its initiative to support education and child empowerment across Nigeria.
In addition to that, the Isiokpo-born banker contributes in partnership with other private sector partners and engineered avenues through which more resources can be pooled towards supporting children in Nigeria.
As the brilliant financial egghead and debonair gentleman clock 56 years today, it’s a pleasure to celebrate his giant strides yesterday, tomorrow, and always with more to come in the future. There’s no gainsaying that it’s not far-fetched to pen a compendium to provide a helicopter’s view on the epic milestones of Herbert Wigwe in the past, present and future.
He led the drive that led Access Bank Plc to morph into a holding company structure (HOLDCO) with multifaceted value offerings to the market(s)
Ajanaku is a Communications Specialist based in Lagos