Profile of Co-founder & CEO of Access Bank, Herbert Wigwe

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Access Bank CEO, Herbert Wigwe marks Father’s Day

Profile of Co-founder & CEO of Access Bank, Herbert Wigwe

Whenever the success story of Nigeria’s banking sector is discussed and the name Herbert Wigwe is not mentioned on the first sentence then its probably means the story teller needs some history lessons. There are many fictional stories about Herbert Wigwe, the Group Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of Access Bank, but his true life story is a must-read for anyone interested in Nigeria and Africa’s banking industry.

Born 49-year ago, Wigwe’s impressive pedigree is known to industry watchers, just as his humble lifestyle is not strange to those who are familiar with him.

With his 50th birthday just around the corner, precisely August 15, Wigwe is one business leader, whose deftness and ingenuity are legendary but does not like the spotlight.

Despite being media shy, he was once described by Punch Newspaper as “one of Nigeria’s stylish top executives.” He and Access Bank under his leadership since over a decade, has been receiving recognition or praise for good reasons.

Under Wigwe’s watch, Access Bank has risen to become one of the “top five banks in Nigeria” and “ranked among the top 500 global banks in the world”, according to a-2015 The Banker Magazine report.

In just two years of leading a pack of industry-defining banking professionals inspired to consistently create shareholders value, Herbert Wigwe’s visionary leadership has cemented the exemplary strides of the former Group Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer, Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede.

In the first quarter of 2016, Access Bank recorded a profit rise of 42percent, a feat Wigwe, a team-player, owed to the bank’s ‘ever-trusting shareholders, formidable board of directors and employees’.

The Harvard alumnus, a stickler for best practices and using industry standards to produce awesome and robust results, recently received the award for Outstanding Business Sustainability at the 2016 Karlsruhe Sustainable Finance Award in Germany on behalf of the bank for holistically embedding sustainability across its operations.

He said at the occasion: “Access Bank operations and activities at this time is a reflection of the vision of its founding fathers. Like my predecessor, I have a duty to steer the affairs of this bank in a manner that promotes societal good and interest. Our business model encourages us to become that catalyst for the change Africa seeks.”

The bank has continued to attract international commendations and awards. Among them is the 2016 ‘Africa’s Best Bank Transformation’ in the Euromoney 2016 Awards for Excellence.

Personally, Herbert Wigwe is giving back to the society through his personal foundation, HOW Foundation. Recently he conducted malaria test on and donated mosquito nets to 1,000 people in Otuokpo, River State.

One of Herbert Wigwe’s How Foundation’s aims is to give a new lease of life to orphaned and vulnerable children in the society.

Biography

Born in Ibadan, Oyo state in 1966, Herbert Wigwe found his calling in finance at the age of 16. In 2002, he answered the lifelong call of entrepreneurship when he and Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede set out to acquire a small commercial Bank, Access Bank. Today, Access Bank is one of the largest Banks in Africa, a feat which is attributable to his ingenuity and expertise.

Early Life

The CEO of Access Bank started his early life in Ibadan, Oyo State. This accomplished African business leader, born to Pastor Shingle Wigwe, who retired as a Director General at the Nigerian Television Authority and a mother Mrs. Wigwe who was a nurse, developed an interest in social development and community issues at a very early stage in life.

Herbert  has always had a head for numbers, a fact he attributed to playing “mental mathematics” with friends while growing up. This game involved solving random mathematical questions; without the aid of a calculator.

His interest in finance which developed at age 16, was fuelled by the story of Michael Milken, high-yield bonds (junk bonds), among others.

Private Life

A family focused man, Herbert is married to Chizoba Wigwe (nee Nwuba). Herbert and his lovely wife, whom he met when she moved back to Nigeria have since lived together happily. Her genuine smile and intelligence have remained some of the nourishing tonics for the marriage.

The couple married 5 months after meeting, their union is blessed with four children: Chizi, Tochi, Hannah, and David. Herbert is a devoted father and considers his family, “His greatest treasure.”

Despite his busy schedule, Herbert follows his children’s daily school progress and affairs religiously, regardless of his location. Herbert credits his ability to seamlessly balance the busy world of Banking and family life, to his wife, Chizoba.

First Entrepreneurial Venture

From his early 20’s, Herbert began what would become a successful career in banking and finance, his first entrepreneurial venture, would be his most successful.

In 2002, Herbert and his long-time partner and close friend Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede were presented with the prospect  of acquiring a small-scale commercial bank, Access Bank. Herbert had spent over a decade in GTBank and was in-line to becoming the Executive Director in charge of institutional banking. To have even considered such a decision of obtaining  what was then ranked the 65th largest bank in Nigeria seemed like career suicide.

Herbert and his partner seized the opportunity that was presented to them. In 2016, The Banker Database ranked  Access Bank in the top 1,000 banks in the world.

Higher Education & Early Career

Herbert attended Federal Government College (FGC) Sokoto before moving to FGC Warri, he graduated from FGC Warri in 1982 and is fondly remembered not only as a brilliant student but as an avid cricket player.

Although Herbert failed the JAMB examination the first time in 1982, it never deterred him, he persisted and was successfully enrolled at the University of Nigeria Nsukka (UNN) in 1983 where he study Accountancy, graduating with a Second Class Upper honours degree in 1987.

In 1988, Herbert completed the compulsory NYSC program, he would then land a job with Coopers and Lybrand Associates Limited in Lagos as a graduate assistant and was promoted within a year.

In 1989, Herbert passed his Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN) professional examination and moved on to work as a credit analyst at Capital Merchant Bank.

In 1990, Herbert won the British Council Scholarship to study at North Wales University (now Bangor University). He earned his M.A in Banking and Finance in 1991. He returned to Lagos to join a fast growing new generation bank, Guaranty Trust Bank, gradually rising through the ranks to become an Executive Director at the age of 32.

Wigwe would go on to earn an MSc in Financial Economics from the University of London. He would also become an alumnus of Harvard Business School Executive Management Program.

Philanthropy

Herbert Wigwe is not only an entrepreneur and a businessman. He is also a philanthropist. In 2015, under the aegis of Access Bank Plc; he launched the W-Initiative. A scheme meant to support and encourage more women to venture into business.

The W-Initiative is much more than a loan scheme. It is a community where women of various calibres can connect and share ideas. Women also get training to grow their businesses to new heights.

The W-Initiative also supports a Maternal Health Scheme. This provides women facing fertility issues with support. The Scheme gives women support for fertility issues such as In Vitro fertilization (IVF), Intrauterine Insemination (IUI), Endometriosis, Hysterectomy and many others.

Wigwe is also passionate about the Arts. At the 2015 edition of Africa International Film Festival (AFRIFF), the NollyFund was announced. The NollyFund is a brain child of Access Bank and the Bank of Industry (BOI). The NollyFund is a loan scheme designed to help Nollywood stakeholders with the production and distribution of films.

NollyFund has an initial program limit of N1 billion and a single limit of N50 million for individual loans. Notable beneficiaries of the fund include the veteran filmmaker, Kunle Afolayan who obtained a loan for his movie, the CEO. The CEO is pegged the best pan-African film to come out of Nigeria in recent years.

In Early 2016, Herbert launched his own charitable foundation, The HOW Foundation with the aim of  using this medium as a way to continue to make a positive impact outside of his work environment. Wigwe’s foundation reflects his key passions around youth empowerment, leadership, and mentorship, Malaria, Prostate Cancer, and Children.

Profile of Co-founder & CEO of Access Bank, Herbert Wigwe

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