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Herbert Wigwe: A Pan-African Finance Revolutionary

Chief executive officer of Access Holdings Plc , Herbert Wigwe, 57, lost his life on Friday when the helicopter he was in with his wife and son crashed in the California desert.

Born in August 1966 in Ibadan, Dr. Herbert Onyewumbu Wigwe, FCA was the son of a civil servant father who had previously held a leadership position in the state-owned Nigerian Television Authority and a mother, who was a nurse. He hailed from Isiokpo, Ikwerre Local Government Area of Rivers State. He is married to Chizoba Wigwe (née Nwuba) and blessed with four children: Chizi, Tochi, Hannah, and David.

His career in financial services spans more than 27 years including over 17 years as Deputy Managing Director and subsequently CEO of Access Bank. Since January 2014, he has been CEO and Group Managing Director of Access Bank. Mr. Wigwe started his professional career with Coopers & Lybrand Associates, an international firm of Chartered Accountants. He spent over 10 years at Guaranty Trust Bank Plc where he managed several portfolios, including financial institutions, large corporates 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 was appointed Group Managing Director/CEO effective January 1, 2014 and served in that capacity till May 2022. He was subsequently appointed a Non-Executive Director of the Bank effective May 2022.

Dr. Wigwe graduated from University of Nigeria, Nsukka and received a B SC. Degree in Accountancy; a Master’s degree in Banking and Finance from the University College of North Wales (now Bangor); a Master of Science degree in Financial Economics from the University of London. Mr Wigwe is an alumnus of the Harvard Business School Executive Management Programme. In May 2023, Wigwe announced that he was pursuing a law degree.

He is also a Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN). Mr Wigwe is the Chairman of The Access Bank (UK) Ltd and a Non-Executive Director of Nigerian Mortgage Refinance Company Plc; FMDQ OTC Securities Exchange; Shared Agents Network Expansion Facilities Ltd and Agri-Business/ SME Enterprises Investment Scheme. He is also a member of the Governing Council of the Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria.

Dr. Wigwe, a two-time recipient of the African Banker of the Year award from the African Banker Awards, was a fervent supporter of the UN Sustainable Development Goals, which serve as the cornerstone of Access Holdings’ expansion plan.

Wigwe’s Legacy

Wigwe had a revolutionary tenure as Group Managing Director/CEO of Access Bank from 2014 to 2022. By adopting digital technologies and broadening the bank’s scope, he promoted innovation. Due to his dedication to sustainability, UNEP FI named him a “champion of green finance”.

Additionally, Wigwe set up the bank to benefit from the prospects the AfCFTA offers across the continent. It is anticipated that the AfCFTA agreement will establish the world’s largest free trade area in terms of participant nations.

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But the Wigwe phenomenon was what allowed the bank to join with Diamond Bank in 2018, propelling it to the top of several metrics like assets and retail business with 646 locations.

With 38 million cards, it also registered the largest channel touch points, which included 34,000 POS machines and 3,000 ATMs. The bank released Nigeria’s first Green Bond in 2019. In 2020, it became the first bank from Nigeria to open an office in South Africa and extended its African operations to include Kenya and Mozambique.

After acquiring Nigeria’s Intercontinental Bank in 2012 and Diamond Bank in 2019, Access Bank, under Wigwe, has expanded its power and performance in the corporate, personal, and business banking sectors.

Access Bank is to achieve sustainable economic growth that is profitable, ecologically conscious, and socially significant through the integration of sustainable business principles into its operations. Some of the largest enterprises in Africa in the fields of construction, telecommunications, energy, oil, and gas have made great strides thanks to Access Bank.

Without a doubt, Herbert Wigwe has established Access Bank as the dominant financial institution with the ability to positively impact Africa.

In addition to his work in banking, Wigwe was a philanthropist who founded the HOW (Herbert Onyewumbu Wigwe) Foundation to provide mentorship and scholarships to empower young Nigerians. This project is a ray of hope for African development rather than only a charitable endeavour. The main goal of the foundation is to improve Africa through building. Recently, this mission has resulted in the exciting and ambitious initiative of founding Wigwe University.

Wigwe has become a prominent supporter of affordable, high-quality education since she recognizes the transformational potential of education. He is adamant that education is essential to the advancement of any country, not merely as a right. Through his advocacy, he highlights the importance of education in empowering people and determining a nation’s destiny. This is a tale of aspiration, foresight, and a steadfast dedication to the future of Africa.

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