As Nigeria mourned the tragic death of a renowned banker, Herbert Wigwe, his passing also left a void in Access bank PLC, which he transformed into a pan-African financial powerhouse. Many captains of industry have paid tributes to Wigwe’s monumental legacy in the bank sector, which saw him transform to institution to make it one of the behemoths in Nigeria’s financial sector.
Wigwe, his wife Chizoba, son Chizi, former chairman of Nigerian Exchange Group Plc, Abimbola Ogunbanjo and two crew members were killed in a chopper crash on February 9, near Nipton, California.
Wigwe, the CEO of Access Bank was widely regarded as one of the most visionary and influential leaders in Nigeria banking industry.
Wigwe’s Legacy at Access Bank
Wigwe joined Access Bank in 2002 as a deputy managing director, after a successful career at Guaranty Trust Bank and Ernst & Young. He partnered with his friend and mentor, Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede, to acquire a struggling bank with a vision to create a world-class institution.
Under their leadership, Access Bank embarked on a remarkable journey of growth and expansion, both organically and through strategic acquisitions. The bank grew from a small player with less than 10 branches and N3 billion in assets to a leading financial institution with over 600 branches and N10 trillion in assets, serving over 40 million customers across 12 countries in Africa and the UK.
Wigwe took over as the CEO of Access Bank in 2014, after Aig-Imoukhuede retired. He continued to drive the bank’s ambitious agenda, focusing on innovation, customer service, and social impact. He spearheaded the bank’s digital transformation, launching several products and platforms to enhance customer experience and financial inclusion.
He also championed the bank’s sustainability initiatives, aligning them with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. He was a passionate advocate of the eradication of malaria in Africa, working with the Corporate Alliance on Malaria to support this objective.
Wigwe was instrumental in the bank’s African expansion strategy, which aimed to become the largest retail bank by customer base in sub-Saharan Africa. He led the bank’s acquisition of several banks in Nigeria and other African countries, including Diamond Bank, Intercontinental Bank, Finbank, Grobank, Cavmont Bank, and BancABC. He also oversaw the bank’s entry into the UK market, establishing Access Bank UK as a subsidiary.
In 2022, he became the Group CEO of Access Holdings Plc, a new entity created to oversee the bank’s diversified businesses, including banking, insurance, payments, and securities.
Wigwe was widely recognized and celebrated for his achievements and contributions to the banking sector and the economy. He was a two-time winner of the African Banker of the Year award from the African Banker Awards. He was also 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.
He was a member of several boards and committees, including the Nigerian Business Coalition Against AIDS, the Nigerian Mortgage Refinance Company, and Friends Africa. He was also a mentor and philanthropist, supporting various causes and initiatives, especially in education and health.
The Transition Of Leadership At Access Bank
Following Wigwe’s death, Access Holdings Plc announced the appointment of Ms. Bolaji Agbede as the Acting Group CEO, subject to the approval of the Central Bank of Nigeria. Agbede, who joined Access Bank in 2003 as an Assistant General Manager, was the Executive Director of Business Support at Access Holdings Plc, a role she held since 2022.
She has nearly three decades of professional experience in banking and business consultancy services. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Mathematics and Statistics from the University of Lagos and a Master of Business Administration Degree from Cranfield University UK. She is also a member of the Chartered Institute of Management UK and the Chartered Institute of Personnel Management of Nigeria.
Agbede’s appointment is in line with the bank’s robust succession planning practices, according to the Chairman of Access Holdings, Mr. Abubakar Jimoh. He expressed confidence that Agbede, being the bank’s most senior executive, with exceptionally rich, professional and leadership experience and understanding of the Access culture, would provide the much-needed leadership to steer the bank towards the attainment of its strategic vision of building a globally connected community and ecosystem, inspired by Africa for the world.
The Challenges And Opportunities For Access Bank
The transition of leadership at Access Bank comes at a critical time for the bank and the industry, as they face the challenges and opportunities posed by the global economic downturn, the regulatory environment, the competitive landscape, and the changing customer expectations. The bank will have to navigate these uncertainties while maintaining its stability, continuity, and reputation, as well as honouring the legacy of its late founder and leader.
The bank will also have to leverage the opportunities that arise from the crisis, such as the increased demand for digital and mobile banking services, the potential for cross-border and regional integration, the need for innovative and inclusive financial solutions, and the scope for strategic partnerships and collaborations. The bank will have to redefine its strategic priorities and adapt to the new market dynamics, while staying true to its vision and mission.
Growth Strategies For Access Bank
Access Bank has a strong foundation and a proven track record of growth and success, which gives it a competitive edge and a positive outlook for the future. The bank has a diversified and resilient business model. The bank is also known to have a culture of innovation, excellence, and social responsibility, which sets it apart from its peers.
The bank’s future prospects and growth strategies will depend on how well it can leverage its strengths and address its weaknesses, as well as how it can seize the opportunities and mitigate the risks in the environment.
Access Bank is one of the most successful and respected banks in Nigeria and Africa, thanks to the vision and leadership of its late founder and CEO, Dr. Herbert Wigwe. His death has left a huge gap in the bank and the industry, but also a legacy of excellence and impact that will inspire generations to come.