New Telegraph

February 25, 2024

New Telegraph 2020 Awards: Wigwe: Growing Access Bank into a financial powerhouse

Mr. Herbert Onyewumbu Wigwe (FCA) is the Group Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of Access Bank Plc. Under his leadership, Wigwe has changed the fortunes of the Tier 1 lender. With him, Access Bank has evolved into a world-class financial institution.

Born in Ibadan, Oyo State, in 1966, Herbert Wigwe found his calling quite early in life, at the age of 16, he had started developing an interest in finance. He attended the University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN) in 1983, where he studied accountancy, graduating with a Second Class Upper honours degree in 1987. In 1988, he completed the compulsory National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) programme and proceeded to pass his Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN) professional examination in 1989. In 1990, he won the British Council Scholarship to study at North Wales University (now Bangor University) and earned his M.A in Banking and Finance in 1991. He went on to earn an MSc in Financial Economics from the University of London, and later became an alumnus of Harvard Business School Executive Management Programme.

Professional career

His career in financial services spans over 25 years, including over a decade at Guaranty Trust Bank, where he managed several portfolios, including financial institutions, corporate and multinationals. He left Guaranty Trust Bank as an Executive Director to co-lead the transformation of Access Bank Plc. in March 2002 as Deputy Managing Director. He has been CEO and Group Managing Director of Access Bank since January 2014, during which he has been able to ensure that the bank’s five-year strategic plan, created in 2013, remains well on course.

Impressive growth

In 2019, for instance, the Access Bank Group delivered a 26 per cent increase in gross earnings of $1.8 billion, from $1.4 billion in 2018, comprising interest income growth to $1.4 billion in 2019 from $1 billion in 2018, a 41 per cent growth from previous levels, despite pressures on risk asset growth during the period. Furthermore, the bank recorded a non-interest income growth of $355 million (12 per cent y/y). This net effect on operating income resulted in strong profit before tax of $316 million against N283 million in 2018. Indeed, Access Bank is, today, not only the largest bank in Nigeria in terms of assets and deposits, it is also Africa’s leading bank by customer base (over 29 million customers). The Tier 1 lender, which operates through a network of over 600 branches and service outlets, spanning three continents, had over 28,000 employees in its operations in Nigeria, sub-Saharan Africa and the United Kingdom, with representative offices in China, Lebanon, In-dia and the UAE. This year, the bank was ranked among the top 500 banks globally by leading business valuation and strategy consultancy, Brand Finance. According to Brand Finance, Access Bank has demonstrated growth since it was last ranked as the fifth most valuable Nigerian bank in the 2017 Banking 500 report. The latest report shows that the lender ranks second with a valuation of $242 million.

Milestone merger with Diamond Bank

Analysts pointed out at the time that the bank’s valuation came on the back of its successful merger with Diamond Bank in April 2019. The nine-month post-merger financial results posted by the bank showed gross earnings of N513 billion, an increase of 37 per cent above the N375.2 billion recorded within the same time frame in 2018. Further analysis of the results showed the bank’s asset base grew by 33 per cent to N6.6 trillion as of September 2019, up from N4.95 trillion as of December 31, 2018. Commenting on the bank’s growth trajectory at the time, Wigwe said: “In the last 12 months, Access Bank has grown into a powerhouse in the Nigerian and, indeed, African banking industry. We are happy with all the successes recorded so far and we hope to reach and surpass other targets we have set for ourselves. “Access Bank will continue on its journey to becoming Africa’s gateway to the world, through strategic expansion into new and emerging markets within and outside Africa and providing bestin- class customer experience. “Access Bank will continue to innovate and remain profitable while offering value to all investors and stakeholders. As we strive to expand our business operations, we will remain true to our core values of sustainable banking and adherence to global best practices.”

Awards

Under Wigwe’s leadership, Access Bank has won several notable awards, such as the Global Banking Alliance for Women Market Champion Award in 2015 and the Best Sustainable Bank 2016 award by World Finance. In addition, Access Bank became the first African financial institution to win the Karlsruhe Sustainable F i n a n c e Awards for Outstanding Business Sustainability four consecutive times (from 2016 to 2019). In recognition of his contributions towards driving sustainable business practices across the banking industry, Wigwe was named the “Sustainability Champion of the Year” at the Sustainability Enterprise and Responsibility Awards in 2017 and became the pioneering winner of the first-ever “Sustainability Leader of the Year, Africa” award at the Karlsruhe Sustainable Finance Awards 2018 in recognition of his efforts t ow a r d s transforming Africa for Sustainable development. F u r – t h e r – mo r e , in September this year, he was n a m e d the “Afr i c a n Banker of the Year” at 2020 African Banker Awards. The organisers of the awards said Wigwe was recognised for several soc i o -economic efforts, including leading Nigeria’s private sector COVID-19 response. Specifically, under his leadership, Access Bank donated over $2.7 million to support government in fighting the virus while championing the Coalition Against COVID-19 (CACOVID) initiative in Nigeria, which it spearheaded. Apart from his leadership role in spearheading the CACOVID response, there is no doubt that Wigwe, who is the current Chairman of Body of Bank CEOs in Nigeria, played a leading role in bringing about the several initiatives that the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), in collaboration with the Bankers’ Committee, is using to mitigate the impact of the scourge on the economy. Thus, for his leadership role in the industry, Herbert Wigwe is New Telegraph’s Banker of the Year.

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