By Eric Elezuo
Have you seen a man diligent in his work, he will dine with kings, and not with mean men, so says the inspired Holy Bible of the Christian faith, and so is exemplified in the life of one of Nigeria’s most accomplished bankers and achiever of great repute, Herbert Onyewumbu Wigwe.
Born on August 15, 1966 in Lagos, Wigwe, who is currently the Chief Executive Officer and Group Managing Director of Access Bank, one of Nigeria’s top five banking institutions, is a force to reckon with in the finance world, even before he succeeded his business partner, Aigboje Aig-Imoukhede in January 2014.
In his over a decade in Guaranty Trust Bank where he superintended several portfolios, including financial institutions, Corporates and Multinationals before joining Access Bank in March 2002 as Deputy Managing Director, Wigwe made indelible marks and contributions that signalled that he is responsible and has strong leadership credentials.
Quite an early riser, Herbert, a diligent go-getter, has a degree in Accountancy from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, from where he proceeded to the University College of North Wales (now Bangor), for a Masters in Banking and Finance. The man, who knew from the on start what he wishes to do with his future, went further to the University of London, where he obtained an MSc in Financial Economics. He is also an Alumnus of the Harvard Business School Executive Management Program.
Well equipped, Wigwe began his career at Coopers & Lybrand, Lagos as a Management Consultant later qualifying as a Chartered Accountant. After a stint at Capital Bank, he joined GTBank where he spent over a decade working in corporate and institutional banking, rising to become the Executive Director in charge of institutional banking.
In 2002, Herbert, described as a pro-active thinker, and his bosom business partner, Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede, saw a unique opportunity and grabbed it, acquiring what was then a small commercial bank, Access Bank, which at the time was the 65th largest of the 89 banks in the country.
Presently, and by a divine as well as intellectually motivated turnaround, Wigwe’s Access Bank is one of the top 5 banks in Nigeria and ranked among the top 500 global banks, according to a 2015 report by The Banker magazine. That is not all; the bank is aiming to be Africa’s top bank. It currently serves over 6.5 million individual and corporate account holders, through 350 branches and with more than 1,500 ATMs in major centres across Nigeria, Sub-Saharan Africa and the UK.
Not subjecting himself to one pie, and tapping from the inexhaustible experience as one of Nigeria’s foremost corporate bankers, Wigwe has helped develop some of Africa’s biggest companies in the construction, telecommunications, energy and oil and gas sectors through a unique model, which involves understanding, and providing financial support and expertise. His career in financial services spans more than 25-years including over a decade as Deputy managing director.
A complete all-rounder, Herbert has also served as the Chairman of Access Bank Ghana Limited, Access Investment & Securities Limited, Central Securities and Clearing System (CSCS) and is the current Chairman of Access Bank (UK) Limited. He is a board member of Nigerian Mortgage Refinance Company and a member of the advisory Board for Friends Africa. He is a Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN – FCA), a Fellow of The Institute of Credit Administration, and an Honorary member of the Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria.
In January 2015, he was described by one of Nigeria’s frontline newspapers, Punch, as “one of Nigeria’s stylish top executives” and in November 2016, he was nominated as banker of the year by The Sun.
Wigwe is happily married to Chizoba Wigwe (née Nwuba) and has four excellent children; Chizi, Tochi, Hannah and David. The family lives in the headquarter city of Access Bank, Lagos.
Serially described as an extremely cerebral individual reputed for his number-crunching aptitude, Wigwe is known for being media shy, a quality that has set him apart as disciplined and humble. Notwithstanding, the gold fish has no hiding place, and so his larger than life existence is always in the public domain for the benefit of the people he is religiously serving.
While not in the habit of blowing his own trumpet, Credit Analysts, who have had the privilege of working with him, are filled with glowing testimonies about him as one of Nigeria’s finest Bankers and insightful credit writers. His name is decently etched on plagues in offices across the country for his role in execution of some of the complex banking transactions that have positively changed the socio-economic landscape in Nigeria. Wigwe is a physical enigma!
Known for his willingness to inspire and lead by example, Wigwe’s brilliant mind is an abode of philosophical and inspirational talks that he ceaselessly shares with youths and his colleagues. Chief amongst his rules are these two, which he called rules to success, “Never give up on your dreams and do not break rule number one”.
“Today I will do what others won’t, so tomorrow I can do what others can’t. Always learn from the mistakes of other people. Life is too short to learn through your own mistakes. God won’t stop the rain; but if you ask Him… and believe, He will take you through it,” forms one of his all time quotes while inspiring the up and coming.
Herbert feels indebted to the younger generation of Nigerians and has earmarked both his time and resources to help them become better than his own generation.
Humble and accommodating, when in the first quarter of 2016, Access Bank recorded a profit rise of 42 percent, Wigwe, a team-player of great repute, ascribed the success to the bank’s ‘ever-trusting shareholders, formidable board of directors and employees’.
A great supporter of corporate social responsibility, the pillar of today’s Access Bank Plc, has said that the Bank would sustain its support to the vulnerable children, orphans and internationally displaced persons in the northern part of Nigeria through its collaboration with UNICEF.
He made the declaration at the 2016 Access Bank Polo Day, in association with Fifth Chukker, at the Guards Polo Club, Windsor, UK, one of the events the company, under his watch sponsors.
“We are conscious of our role as a change agent in Nigeria that can help institute socio-economic development through responsible business practice and environmental considerations,” he said.
“In addition, we are continually seeking ways through which more resources can be pooled towards supporting the children. We are part of the community and as such should support its well-being.”
Personally, Herbert Wigwe is a giver, sporadically giving back to the society through his personal foundation, HOW Foundation. In the not distant past, he conducted malaria test on and donated mosquito nets to 1,000 people in Otuokpo, Rivers 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.
Just recently, the bank Wigwe is heading successfully conducted the 2nd edition of the Access Bank Lagos City Marathon where mouth watering cash prices were given to both winners and participants. The event, reputed as the 2nd biggest marathon event in the whole of Africa, has Wigwe’s signature heavily embedded on it.