The Herbert Wigwe Moments and Models

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WRITERS’ WORLD with Bisi Daniels, email: bisi.daniels@thisdaylive.com, Blog: www.bisidaniels.com, 08093618000

A story on Access Bank’s recent Corporate Social Responsibility model caught my attention the other day, and as a writer on the subject and practitioner, my interest was piqued. (I have been initiating and writing CSR projects, especially literacy projects on key sectors, for some Corporates). Coming on the heels of some strong, positive PR the bank was enjoying even from the benevolence of coincidence, made it all the more interesting. Expectedly Herbert Wigwe, the bank’s Group Managing Director, has been in the thick of the news

On the day, the Central Bank of Nigeria barred nine banks (it turned out to be eight) from further dealing in foreign exchange transactions over infractions on the TSA remittances, Wigwe’s Access Bank, which was not included, was reported to have raised the salaries of its staff members to cushion the effects of ongoing economic hardships, which was officially called a recession on Wednesday.
The eight banks were found guilty of refusing to remit to the TSA over $2.12 billion revenue realised from the operations of the NNPC.

The Access Bank report that day said, “Staff members of Access Bank Plc were pleasantly surprised as they had an increase in their salary despite the prevailing economic realities in the country. It came at a time businesses, including banks, had cut jobs to reduce operating cost.”

One report quoted an employee, who called Wigwe “Uncle Herbie,” as saying: “I am speechless. I don’t think anyone saw this coming, this is happening at a time when my friends in other banks are losing their jobs. It feels great to be supported in such trying times. Thank you Uncle Herbie.”
The employee’s affection for Wigwe is somehow shared by some people, who describe him and exceptionally warm, and friendly, but a firm manager. My psychological read of him is a man who is, and looks it, mentally sharp even from a distance.

As the news broke on Wednesday that the CBN had lifted the ban on the eight banks after a meeting of chief executive officers of the affected banks and the Committee of Governors of the CBN under the auspices of the Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria (CIBN), Wigwe was the one to speak for banks. He was reported as saying the banks pledged to uphold a re-payment plan. On a number of occasions he had spoken for his colleagues. It is not clear if that is sheer co-incidence but, again, it takes a strong brand to be entrusted with such responsibilities.

Herbert Onyewumbu Wigwe
Mr. Herbert Onyewumbu Wigwe, FCA has been the Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director of Access Bank Plc January, 2014 and served as its Group Deputy Managing Director. Wigwe started his professional career with Coopers and Lybrand Associates, an international firm of Chartered Accountants. He spent over 10 years at Guaranty Trust Bank where he managed several portfolios including financial institutions, Corporates and Multinationals.
He served as the Chairman of Intercontinental Homes Savings & Loans Plc. He has been Director at Associated Discount House Limited since December 1, 2011.

He is a Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN), and an Alumnus of Harvard Business School Executive Management Programme.
He holds a Master’s degree in Banking and International Finance from the University College of North Wales; a Master’s degree in Financial Economics from the University of London and a B.Sc. degree in Accounting from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka.

Strong half-year results
Wigwe has another good run in the news with the bank’s strong half-year results. The report and accounts for the six-month period ended June 30, 2016, showed pre and post tax profits rose by 28 per cent and 26 per cent; and interest income and net interest income grew by 14 per cent and 42 per cent.

Gross earnings rose to N174 billion in first half 2016 as against N168.3 billion in the corresponding period of 2015. Interest income rose from N98.9 billion to N112.3 billion as a result of steady income growth from the bank’s core business and a 14 per cent reduction in interest expense. Non-interest income thus improved from N48.16 billion in first half 2015 to N68.45 billion in first half 2016.

Also, strong growth in fee and commission income contributed to non-interest income of N61.7 billion which largely off-set the decline in trading income. Operating income grew by 11 per cent from N117.6 billion to N130.2 billion in 2015.

Profit before tax rose by 28 per cent to N50 billion in first half 2016, from N39.1 billion in 2015, while profit after tax stood at N39.4 billion, up by 26 per cent from N31.1 billion in the corresponding period of 2015. The bank ended the period with a return on average equity (ROAE), which is above the inflation rate of 16.48 per cent.
If all that are numbers, the bottomline to shareholders is that the bank is one of the three banks that on the basis of audited report and accounts for the six-month period declared interim dividend per share of 25 kobo.

And of all that, Wigwe said: “The results underscore our continued ability to grow sustainably whilst effectively adapting to a challenging operating landscape. The prevalent macro-economic conditions put a strain on business performance across the industry, with increased concerns about asset quality deterioration. Despite these challenges, the bank’s asset quality remained stable, as non-performing loans remained below industry average, in line with our guidance. Our capital and liquidity levels were also sustained above regulatory limits.”

The CSR Story
The CSR story on Wigwe read in part: “Access Bank Plc, with Herbert Wigwe as group managing director and chief executive officer has, for instance, identified infrastructure as a key component of the conducive environment that must be in place if Nigeria is indeed to play in the league of leading nations and even to attract the much needed foreign investment that is needed to help grow the economy and empower its citizens to achieving their socio-economic goals.”

It went on to say: “the Lagos State government has struck a partnership with the bank as the lead financier for two major projects that have direct relevance to the socio-economic lives of the people of the state, and those outside. The projects are the Eko Atlantic that is designed to be Nigeria’s version of Manhattan, New York, in the United States, as well as the Fourth Mainland Bridge, the N844 billion, N38 kilometre road/bridge project that will link Ikorodu with Eti Osa Local Government Area.

“Access Bank’s foremost status in infrastructure financing is underscored by the fact that it is leading two internationally renowned financial institutions – J. P. Morgan and Africa Finance Corporation – on the new bridge project.

“The bank is also collaborating with the Dangote Foundation to raise five billion naira for the building of a state-of-the-art International Research Centre of Excellence for the Institute of Human Virology, Nigeria, in Abuja, for the promotion of public-private partnership for quality health services, capacity building and research in West Africa.”

The term “corporate social responsibility” became popular in the 1960s and has been used indiscriminately by many to cover legal and moral responsibility more narrowly construed.

Indeed, until recently, CRS was resorted to as a means of buying peace from host communities for business operations to go on unhindered towards profit maximization. In Nigerian street English, CSR was, and it still is, to some companies, “finding the people something for companies to have their peace.”

And what do the companies give? Money and consumables to communities, especially their leaders!
That is really selfish, old school CSR. Researchers of the subject have noted that: “In the 1950s the primary focus of CSR was on businesses’ responsibilities to society and doing good deeds for society. In the 1960s key events, people and ideas were instrumental in characterizing the social changes ushered in during this decade. In the 1970s business managers applied the traditional management functions when dealing with CSR issues, while, in the 1980s, business and social interest came closer and firms became more responsive to their stakeholders. During the 1990s the idea of CSR became almost universally approved, also CSR was coupled with strategy literature and finally, in the 2000s, CSR became definitively an important strategic issue for overall development.”

It is not difficult to situate the Wigwe CSR model here. CSR is no longer a bread and butter thing or an occasional show of benevolence. It is goes beyond a company’s sense of responsibility towards the community and environment (both ecological and social) in which it operates, or “giving back to the community,” which is now a CSR cliché.
CSR has become integral part of business that seeks to contribute to quantum overall development of regions and nations, from which the corporate also benefit.

According to Wikipedia, with some CSR models, a firm’s implementation of CSR goes beyond compliance and engages in “actions that appear to further some social good, beyond the interests of the firm and that which is required by law.” CSR strategies encourage the company to make a positive impact on the environment and stakeholders including consumers, employees, investors, communities, and others. Of course the firm at the centre of it also benefits.