Adeola Akinremi writes that change has become the law of life at Access Bank
On the ninth floor of his office where he currently resumes as the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the bank he helped nurtured to greatness over 10 years, the CEO of Access Bank Plc, Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede, has the opportunity of seeing into far horizon. With his height he can survey easily his environment like an on-duty sniper. And with his easy gait of an athlete, Aig is unassuming and a kindly man.
Not only that, the ninth floor of the bank’s headquarters on Danmole Street in Victoria Island has provided him with the ambience to think about the change he now seeks in an industry with regular interface between custodians and customers.
So last Saturday, the tenth floor of the office that appeared like a theartre of sort with assorted cameras, musical equipment and video/teleconference room attached to it, played host to a wide range of journalists. It was for an event tagged ‘Access Bank’s CEO’s Forum’.
And with slow music seeping out of every corner of the room and conversations going on among journalists over a cocktail, Aig sauntered in with the contented smile of a man entirely successful in the last 10 years of leading a pack of other young people. He had handshakes with everyone in the reception room and made straight for the other room where the forum would take place. His first task was re-arrangement of the room to ensure a true roundtable. Then he began to speak. “Our ambition is to be the world’s most respected African bank. We hope we can be part of a change, pushing for a society that functions well, and is fair and transparent.
“10 years ago we had 10,000 customers and branches in the same proportion, but now we have 6.5 million customers with branches in the same proportion. We are customer centric, because we believe if we are customers’ choice we will be one of the best banks in Nigeria and be the change that Africa needs.”
He added: “Communication is key to us. We believe that if we are the customer’s friend, we will constantly be one of the top three banks in Nigeria. However, we feel that beyond just serving our customer in such a way that they feel Access Bank Plc is number one on their minds, it’s important for the world to see us first as a professional institution that conducts itself in such a way that earns its respect from anybody who looks at this institution across the world. We want to be the world’s most respected African bank.
“You realise that we are not housing our ambition in ‘we want to be the most profitable bank or the largest or the highest capitalised bank in the Nigerian stock exchange’. Our ambitions are so much housed on what our stakeholders want us to be and our stakeholders have told us that they want change. They want an Africa that works just the same way that Asia, North America works and they recognise that to get there, African institutions must change and if they change and influence the communities around them, then Africa will change. We know that as we do the things we will do to earn the respect of the world, financial services in Nigeria will change, customer behaviour in Nigeria will change, the market will change and we will be in a better point.”
With mild amusement he moved his audience to the important part of his speech. “We have now created a crèche in the building down there and a bit of a club house for our staff to relax after work hour when they are waiting for stream of heavy traffic to subside. It is because we want to be able to answer their spouses’ queries about their whereabouts adequately,” he said.
Then, he spoke seriously. “We believe that banking is not just a business. It is a privilege which carries so much responsibility.”
And as part of that change of pace, he made an instant revelation. He told the journalists who gathered for the interaction that in about 60 days Access Bank plc would launch “a solution that will allow you take money from all of your accounts and put in one place” just with a click of the mouse.
And now, because of its sure foundation, the bank that prides itself as national champion for women banking and has specifically instituted Nigeria Entrepreneur of the Year Award to lend credence to its commitment has decided to move out of the blue zone known with the logos of many Nigerian banks. “We are moving to the whiter space because we believe we don’t need police around us again. The whiter space is transparency,” Aig enthused.
He emphasised how his bank has used technology to achieve many milestones. “We live in a world where technology has a principal effect to decision making that is incredible. We recognise that the way and manner we approach communication must be elevated similar to the way and manner that Access lives today. 10 or 11 years ago, we had ten thousand customers, today we have 6 million customers.
The dream he had some years ago had left him with a measure of courage. He declared: “We are very well poised to be the key leader of financial services as far as Africa is concerned. We go about this very much driven by a sustainable banking philosophy. We believe that banking is not just a business but that banking is a privilege which carries responsibilities.”
True, the bank’s dedication and focus on SME Markets through series of initiatives and activities that would activate development across key sectors of the economy has been encouraging. According to him, “It is part of Access bank’s commitment to economic empowerment of individuals and growing entrepreneurs. We have identified 13 critical segments of the economy which are already benefiting from this empowerment programme. And to drive the initiative, the Access bank has created a full division to support the needs of these segments and the SME market in Nigeria,” he said.
But those revolutionary ideas according to Aig’s lieutenant, Hebert Wigwe, came from Outside In, a book authored by Haley Manning and Kerry Bodine which seeks to create a delightful customers’ experience. But beyond the book, to power a change requires the height to see into far horizon and Aig has got it all.