Access Holdings Plc Announces the transition of its Group Chief Executive Officer, Dr. Herbert Wigwe, CFR

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The Board of Directors of Access Holdings Plc has announced the passing of Dr. Herbert Wigwe, CFR, the Company’s founding Group Chief Executive Officer and former Group Managing Director of its flagship subsidiary, Access Bank Plc (‘the Bank’). Dr. Wigwe died alongside his wife and son on Friday, February 9, 2024, in a helicopter accident in the United States of America.

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The entire Access Family mourns the loss of Herbert, Doreen and Chizi. We extend our deep and sincere sympathies to his family and loved ones. Dr. Wigwe was a key driving force and a larger-than-life personality who brought his remarkable passion, energy, and experience to the transformation of the Access franchise since joining the Bank in 2002.

Commenting on the passage of Dr. Wigwe, Mr. Abubakar Jimoh, Chairman of Access Holdings said:

“The Access Family has suffered a major loss with the passing of Dr. Wigwe who was a great friend and fine gentleman. He had a prodigious intellect, admirable personal qualities, and vast business experience which he brought to bear on the Access Family and for which we owe him a debt of gratitude.

We remain confident that the Access Group will build further on Dr. Wigwe’s legacy of growth and operational excellence.”

Dr. Wigwe was instrumental in the growth of Access Bank, which he co-founded with his friend and business partner, Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede. He took over as Access Bank Group CEO in 2014, focusing on the Bank’s expansion in Nigeria and Africa before taking the helm at Access Holdings in 2022. Under his leadership, Access Bank drove its African strategy to become Sub-Saharan Africa’s largest retail bank by customer base.

Dr. Wigwe was a member of the Access Bank UK board as well as the board of the Nigerian Business Coalition Against AIDS (NiBUCAA). He has long advocated for eradicating malaria in Africa, working with the Corporate Alliance on Malaria to support this objective. He also sat on the board of the Nigerian Mortgage Refinance Company and Friends Africa and was an honorary member of the Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria and a fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria and the Institute of Credit Administration.

A two-time winner of the African Banker of the Year award from the African Banker Awards, Dr. Wigwe was a passionate advocate of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, which form the bedrock of Access Holdings’ growth strategy.

His academic credentials include a degree in Accounting from the University of Nigeria, an MA in Banking and Finance from the University College of North Wales (now Bangor University), and an MSc in Financial Economics from the University of London. He also completed the Harvard Business School Executive Management Program.

Dr. Wigwe recently founded Wigwe University, Africa’s first Ivy League institution dedicated to providing a world-class education and raising the next generation of fearless leaders.

The late Dr Herbert O. Wigwe

More details about the late Dr Herbert Wigwe

Dr. Herbert Wigwe is a visionary leader, philanthropist, and the founder of Wigwe University. In his professional life, he is the Group Chief Executive Officer of Access Holdings Plc (also known as “Access Corporation”), a multi-national financial services organization that offers commercial banking, lending, payment, pension, insurance, and asset management services.

Access Corporation is headquartered in Lagos, Nigeria and operates through a network of more than 600 branches and service outlets, spanning three continents, 18 countries, and 50+ million customers managed by over 28,000 employees.  Access Bank, the Corporation’s banking business, is one of Africa’s largest retail banks by customer base and total assets.

For eight years until May 2022, Dr. Wigwe led Access Bank Plc as its Group Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer through an extraordinary growth period. Some accolades accorded him include Banker of the Year, 2020 by Leadership Awards; African Banker of the Year, 2021 by African Banker Award; and Best Banking CEO, 2021 by Global Brands Magazine Awards.

A passionate advocate for the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, Dr. Wigwe speaks frequently at business forums and conventions, strongly encouraging a global business commitment to achieving the Goals. As the Group Managing Director of Access Bank Plc, Dr. Wigwe was the first African sponsor of the United Nations Global Compact Initiative.

He is a Board member of Nigeria’s Business Coalition Against AIDS which leads major businesses in Nigeria in fighting HIV and AIDS at all levels of intervention within the health system and the private sector workforce.  Similarly, he advocates for the eradication of malaria in Africa, and is a partner of the Corporate Alliance on Malaria in Africa to achieve this objective. 

Dr. Wigwe’s commitment to the development of Nigeria and Africa extends to numerous initiatives. At the onset of the COVID-19 global crisis, for example, Dr. Wigwe swiftly responded to Nigeria’s private and public healthcare’s inability to respond effectively by galvanizing support for and co-leading the formation of CACOVID (Coalition Against COVID-19) comprised of the Central Bank of Nigeria; major financial institutions in Nigeria; and key stakeholders in Nigeria’s private sector. Dr. Wigwe led the Coalition to support the Federal Government in mitigating the impact of the pandemic and reopening the economy. 

Dr. Wigwe, Access Bank and UNICEF collaborate to support vulnerable children, orphans, and internationally displaced persons in the northern part of Nigeria. To raise awareness and funds, the Bank organizes and hosts annual high-profile Access Bank/UNICEF Charity Shield Polo Tournaments in Nigeria, London, and South Africa.

In 2023, Dr. Wigwe embarked on a transformative journey by founding Wigwe University. With a vision to ignite Africa’s potential for prosperity and nurture fearless leaders who will change the course of history, he has introduced an institution set to rival top universities worldwide. Wigwe University promises to elevate educational standards while creating a unique African experience. Dr. Wigwe believes that education is the key to unlocking Africa’s potential and through Wigwe University, he seeks to leave a legacy that will contribute immensely to the continent’s greatness.

His commitment to education is rooted in the belief that nurturing intellectual capital is pivotal for societal development. Dr. Wigwe envisions Wigwe University as a beacon of knowledge, innovation, and excellence, designed to empower future leaders and contribute to the socio-economic advancement of the continent. This endeavour represents his profound dedication to shaping a brighter future for Africa, making education the cornerstone of his enduring legacy.

In 2023, in recognition of exemplary service to his country, Dr. Wigwe was awarded the Commander of the Order of the Federal Republic – one of the nation’s top honours.

Dr. Wigwe is an alumnus of the Harvard Business School Executive Management Programme. He holds Honorary Doctorate degrees from the University of Port Harcourt, Gombe State University and University of Nigeria, Master’s Degrees in Law, Banking and International Finance, and Financial Economics from the University of London, University of North Wales and University of London, respectively.  He also holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Accounting from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka.

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