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HERBERT WIGWE: Life And Times Of A Banking Wizard 🎊 The Scoper Media

 

 

      On Friday, February 9, 2024, the clock stopped ticking for one of the brightest bankers the African continent has seen, Dr. Herbert Onyewumbu Wigwe, Group Chief Executive Officer, Access Holdings, Nigeria’s biggest financial institution.

He was killed in a helicopter crash on his way from California to Nevada along with his wife, Doreen and son, Chizi.

In a sober mood, the Board of Direc­tors of Access Holdings Plc on Sunday said, “The Board of Directors of Ac­cess Holdings Plc has announced the passing of Dr. Herbert Wigwe, CFR, the Company’s founding Group Chief Ex­ecutive Officer and former Group Man­aging Director of its flagship subsid­iary, Access Bank Plc. Dr. Wigwe died alongside his wife and son on Friday, February 9, 2024, in a helicopter acci­dent in the United States of America.

“The entire Access Family mourns the loss of Herbert, Doreen and Chizi. We extend our deep and sincere sympa­thies to his family and loved ones. Dr. Wigwe was a key driving force and a larger-than-life personality who brought his remarkable passion, en­ergy, and experience to the transfor­mation of the Access franchise since joining the Bank in 2002”.


Commenting on the passing of Dr. Wigwe, Mr. Abubakar Jimoh, Chair­man of Access Holdings said, “The Access Family has suffered a major loss with the passing of Dr. Wigwe who was a great friend and fine gentleman. He had a prodigious intellect, admirable personal qualities, and vast business experience which he brought to bear on the Access Family and for which we owe him a debt of gratitude. We remain confident that the Access Group will build further on Dr. Wigwe’s legacy of growth and operational excellence.”

 

Wigwe was instrumental in the growth of Access Bank, which he co-founded with his friend and business partner Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede.

He took over as Access Bank Group CEO in 2014, focusing on the Bank’s ex­pansion in Nigeria and Africa before taking the helm at Access Holdings in 2022. Under his leadership, Access Bank drove its African strategy to become Sub Saharan Africa’s largest retail bank by customer base.

 

He was a member of the Access Bank UK board as well as the board of the Nigerian Business Coalition Against AIDS (NiBUCAA). He has long been an advocate for the eradica­tion of malaria in Africa, working with the Corporate Alliance on Malaria to support this objective.

 

He also sat on the board of the Nige­rian Mortgage Refinance Company and Friends Africa and was an honorary member of the Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria and a fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria and Institute of Credit Admin­istration.

A two-time winner of the African Banker of the Year award from the Af­rican Banker Awards, Dr. Wigwe was a passionate advocate of the United Na­tions Sustainable Development Goals, which form the bedrock of Access Holdings’ growth strategy.

His academic credentials include a degree in Accounting from the Univer­sity of Nigeria, an MA in Banking and Finance from the University College of North Wales (now Bangor University), and an MSc in Financial Economics from the University of London. He also completed the Harvard Business School Executive Management Pro­gram.

Wigwe recently founded Wigwe University, Africa’s first ivy league institution dedicated to providing a world-class education and raising the next generation of fearless leaders.

 

THE MAKING OF A BANKING PHENOMENON

 

 

Herbert Wigwe was born on August 15, 1966 to parents of Ikwerre descent from Omueke Isiokpo in Rivers State. He had three sisters (Joyce, Peggy and Stella) and one brother (Emeka). He at­tended St. Gregory’s College in Lagos for his secondary education and then proceeded to the University of Nigeria, Nsukka where he obtained a degree in accountancy in 1987.

He obtained a master’s degree in Banking and Finance from the Uni­versity College of North Wales (now Bangor University) in 1989 and another master’s degree in Financial Econom­ics from the University of London in 1990. He also attended the Harvard Business School Executive Manage­ment Program in 2006.

His career began at Coopers & Lybrand, Lagos, before moving to GTBank, where he spent over a de­cade honing his skills in corporate and institutional banking. The turn­ing point came in 2002 when he and Aig-Imoukhuede took a bold step by investing in Access Bank, then a small player in Nigeria’s banking industry.

Under Wigwe’s visionary leader­ship, Access Bank transformed into a powerhouse, now serving over 6.5 million account holders and ranking among the top 500 global banks. His roles extended beyond banking, as he served in various capacities, including as the Chairman of Access Bank Gha­na Limited and a member of several prestigious boards.

Wigwe’s impact was not limited to banking. His passion for philanthropy led him to establish the Herbert Wig­we Foundation, fostering education and entrepreneurship in Nigeria. His dedication earned him the Order of the Niger (CON) and admiration from peers and the public alike.

 

THE WIGWE ERA

 

Wigwe, who was a co-founder of Ac­cess Bank in 2002, became the Group Managing Director and Chief Exec­utive in January 2014 after the retire­ment of his friend and co-founder, Aig­boje Aig-Imoukhuede , took the bank into prominence and has turned it into a conglomerate of sorts with subsid­iaries across Africa, Europe and Asia.

However, it was the Wigwe’s phe­nomenon that made possible the merger with Diamond Bank in 2018 that catapulted the bank to the number one slot in some parameters like assets and retail business with 646 branches.

It also recorded the biggest channel touch points with 38 million cards; 3,000 ATMs and 34,000 POS terminals. In 2019, the bank issued the first Green Bond in Nigeria. In 2020, it expanded its African business into Kenya and Mo­zambique and became the first Nigeri­an bank to set up shop in South Africa.

Access Bank under Wigwe has lev­eraged its strength and success in the corporate, personal and business bank­ing platforms after the acquisition of Nigeria’s Intercontinental Bank in 2012 and Diamond Bank in 2019.

As part of its growth strategy, Ac­cess Bank focuses on mainstreaming sustainable business practices into its operations and strives to deliver sus­tainable economic growth that is prof­itable, environmentally responsible, and socially relevant. Through Access Bank, some of the biggest companies in Africa across construction, telecommu­nications, energy, oil, and gas sectors have recorded significant progress.

There is no doubt that Herbert Wig­we has positioned Access Bank as the financial powerhouse with the capacity to affect Africa positively.

 

AFRICAN BANKING EXPANSIONIST

 

Wigwe also positioned the bank to take advantage of the opportunities which the AfCFTA presents in the continent. The AfCFTA agreement is expected to create the largest free trade area in the world measured by the num­ber of countries participating.

Commenting, Wigwe said, “We know there is a significant gap in achieving our vision to be the world’s most respected African bank. As such, we are very focused on closing this gap through strategic and disciplined ex­pansion of our African footprint, lever­aging robust technology platforms and exceptional customer service delivery.

“Our geographical diversity is a core element of our business model, providing opportunities for growth in different economies and enhancing resilience. We have acquired the excep­tional capacity to successfully execute mergers and acquisitions with speed and efficiency at minimal risk while delivering value to shareholders. The series of mergers and acquisitions we have undertaken since 2005 all bear tes­timony to this and have all been value accretive.”

One of Wigwe’s lasting legacies was the transformation of Access Bank into a holding company in 2022 after twenty years as a commercial bank. This was to ensure that the next 20 years will be very exciting for Access Bank.

He took the bank on the path of an enduring business diversification with the transformation into a holding com­pany, indicating a strategic diversifica­tion into growth areas.

While officially announcing the commencement of operations as a holding company, Wigwe, Group Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Ac­cess Corporation, said: “This natural evolution of our company will ensure that we continue to use digital tools and our partnership with Fintechs to sup­port our customers’ lifestyles outside the banking system. We have set our sights on and delivered ambitious plans to transform the African financial ser­vices sector over the last 20 years.

“Until now, we have concentrated on banking, with the goal of becoming the World’s Most Respected African Bank. Our banking subsidiary is now Nige­ria’s largest bank by assets and Africa’s largest in terms of customer base.

“It is now time for us to take the next transformative step, where we provide our customers with beyond banking services delivering new interconnect­ed financial services across customers’ needs.”

“The Corporation will comprise verticals cutting across banking, pay­ments, consumer lending, insurance brokerage and asset management.

“Access Bank Group will continue to operate in Nigeria and through its subsidiaries and business offices in Africa, Europe and Asia. These busi­nesses, when combined, would position Access Corporation to provide banking services, including intra- and inter-Afri­ca trade, consumer lending, payments services and insurance services to our customers, thereby improving wealth diversification and preservation”.

He projected that in five years, Ac­cess Corporation would be a leading fi­nancial ecosystem player, with services spanning B2B and B2C marketplaces, B2B services, health, housing, digital, content, mobility, core banking offer­ings and other financial services such as insurance and wealth management.

“We recognise and embrace the change that is currently happening and, as we have previously demonstrat­ed, we will lead. Access Corporation will be a driving force in the ongoing digital revolution to the benefit of our stakeholders.

“This transition will allow us to offer more career development opportunities across portfolio companies for our em­ployees, allowing us to attract and retain the best talent in an increasingly global marketplace. We will unlock more value for our customers by focusing on dis­tinct business opportunities with high growth rates globally, such as payments and consumer lending,” he added.

 

BAMIDELE OGUNWUSI

 

Bamidele Ogunwusi is a financial journalist with a strong analytical mind on issues that surround the financial sector.

A graduate of Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife has garnered experience both locally and internationally in finance reporting.

He has received awards and certificates from notable organisations like: the Centre for Investigative Journalism, Lagos, Bloomberg and Press Association, UK.

 

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