PROFILE: How Wigwe revolutionalised Access Bank

HERBERT Wigwe was reported dead after a tragic chopper crashed in California near the Nevada border, United States of America (USA). 

Several reports say that no survivor was found up until the morning of Saturday, February 10.

Who is Wigwe?

Herbert Onyewumbu Wigwe is the full name of the Group Chief Executive Officer of Access Holdings Plc, a bank that he and his business partner, Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede, bought in 2002. As of then, the bank was ranked 65th out of 89 banks operating in the country. 

However, in 15 years, the bank rose to become the 4th largest bank in Nigeria with subsidiaries in about 14 countries.

Wigwe started his career as a consultant at Coopers & Lybrand, Lagos with an educational qualification of a degree in accountancy from the University of Nigeria and two master’s qualifications from the University College of North Wales and the University of London. 

After leaving Coopers & Lybrand, he joined GT Bank, where he spent most of his career before acquiring Access BAnk in 2002.

The rise of Access Bank

A year after the acquisition in 2002, Wigwe raised over N14.5 billion with a public offering, registering a 133 per cent oversubscription which earned the bank the the Hewlett Packard Award for the best implementation of a basic banking application in West Africa.

In an interview, Wigwe said the first task was to put up a strong team and competent management that shared the same value system and vision of the bank.

He said, “We had to build up the brand, we had to look for institutions to partner with, to give more credibility to the institution. We realised that the pace of growth was such that we had to pay specific attention to issues around risk management and compliance. So that was another aspect that we had to look at.”

This partnership led to Access Bank’s absorption and integration with Capital Bank and Marina Bank in 2004. After several business modifications, the bank raised the public offering to $1 billion in 2008. 

In 2009, Access Bank merged with  Intercontinental Commercial Bank and became listed on the London Stock Exchange. 10 years later, in 2019, the bank acquired Diamond Bank with over 29 million customers for $235 million and by 2021, acquired a stake in Grobank, a South African bank, for US$60 million.

As of now, the public offer for  Access Bank comprises an Over-The-Counter GDR placement of US$250 million, which was similarly oversubscribed by 700 per cent. 

Other Investments

Wigwe is also known to be a philanthropist leading the Herbert Wigwe Foundation, which invests in education and entrepreneurship in Nigeria. This earned him the Order of the Niger (CON) in October 2022. 

He also founded the Wigwe University, situated in Isiokpo, Port Harcourt, and was approved by the Nigerian University Commission in June 2023. 

    The deceased was born on August 15, 1966, and was reported dead on February 7, 2024, at age 57.

    ACCESS Holdings’ response to Wigwe’s reported death

    In the wake of this development, Access Holdings PLC has responded to the news of the reported death of the Group Chief Executive Officer of Access Holdings Plc.

    The statement said: “We have received numerous inquiries concerning an airplane crash in the USA. Presently, we lack specific information; however, we are actively collaborating with US authorities who will furnish updates.

    “Your understanding and support are valued, and we commit to keeping you informed promptly as we receive updates on the situation,” the statement added.

    Kehinde Ogunyale tells stories by using data to hold the government into account. Shoot him a mail at [email protected] or Twitter: Prof_KennyJames

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