Access Bank: Propelled By Transformational Agenda

Herbert Wigwe

Oluchi Chibuzor

Access Bank Plc’s evolution from an obscure Nigerian lender into a world-class African financial institution in a relatively short period of time can be traced back to its first transformational agenda created by a brilliant management team that came on board in 2002, writes

Although the lender commenced operations on May 11, 1989, the Access Bank brand story could be said to have really begun in March 2002, when its board of directors, at the time, appointed Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede as Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer and Herbert Wigwe as Deputy Managing Director.

The two men, then in their 30s, were given the mandate to ensure that the bank became one of Nigeria’s leading financial institutions within a five-year period (March 2002 to March 2007).

At about the same time, another high flying professional, Mr. Gbenga Oyebode, who had gained vital board experience from some of Nigeria’s leading companies, including MTN Nigeria, Okomu Oil Palm Plc, was also appointed to the board.

The new management team wasted no time in creating a transformational agenda for Access Bank, which became the road map for the conversion of the lender into a world class financial institution.

In fact, the impact of the transformation agenda was reflected in the bank’s performance in the first year. The lender grew its balance sheet by 100 per cent and posted an impressive N1 billion profit before tax.
To put in context, the profit before tax figure was more than the cumulative profit made by the bank in the previous 12 years.

Capital Raising

Recognising the role of an enhanced capital structure, the bank embarked on a capital raising exercise in July 2007.

The exercise was a huge success recording an over subscription of over 300 per cent.

The public offer comprised of an Over-The-Counter GDR placement of $250 million which was similarly oversubscribed by 700 per cent. Acquisition of Intercontinental Bank In 2012, Access Bank became a top five lender in Nigeria following its acquisition of Intercontinental Bank and began to build a pre-eminent position in retail as well as corporate banking.

By 2013, Access Bank had become AA- rated by S&P and was able to raise capital in the global bond markets, with its first successful $350million Eurobond issuance taking place in July 2012.

Wigwe takes over from Aig-Imoukhuede

Following Mr Aig-Imoukhuede’s exit, in line with Central Bank of Nigeria’s (CBN) rule limiting bank chief executive officers to a maximum tenure of 10 years, Wigwe took over as the new GMD/CEO in 2014.

He continued the task of sustaining the lender’s growth, by setting specific time frame for the attainment of clearly identified objectives. 2018-2022 transformational strategy

For instance, during a presentation at the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE) on December 4, 2017, Access Bank set a target of 30million customers that it would attract between 2018 and 2022 as part of its transformational strategy, which, it said, was focused on attaining the position of the market leader in Nigerian banking sector.
As the bank’s CEO, Wigwe explained at the time the bank was aiming to become the leader in trade/ intra-Africa trade, through the universal payment gateway.

The Access Bank boss listed the six key factors, he said, would drive the transformation strategy which include global collaboration, customer-focus, digital-led banking, retail and wholesale banking, analytics-driven insight/ robust risk management and universal payment gateway.

He stressed that the bank would give priority to the retail segment growth, which will be driven through digital innovation and tech-driven platforms.

On measures that would make the lender attain its objective of becoming the top bank in the country, Wigwe outlined strategies including enhancing retail offering across key market segments and increase focus on digital to support the retail and payment business.

Acquisition of Diamond Bank
In April 2019, Access Bank seized the opportunity to accelerate its five-year plan by combining with Diamond Bank, which at the time was Nigerian’s leading retail bank with 19 million customers, including 10 million mobile customers, and a strong reputation for data analytics and technological innovation.

The merger made Access Bank the largest bank in Nigeria and Africa by customer base (over 36 million customers). Explaining why Access Bank merged with Diamond Bank,

Wigwe said: “First of all, the idea was for us to show the world that coming out of Africa we can create truly global institutions that are digitally led, that are basically reaching out to the bottom of the pyramid. “In terms of the strengths that the different institutions brought,
Access Bank on its own had built a strong wholesale business. It had also built a very strong treasury business and was known for strong risk management.”

Now, Diamond Bank catered for a different end of the market. The micro-SMEs, individuals; it was a very strong digital institution that had about 17 million customers.

So, the business combination created an institution where Access Bank could serve the large corporates and, using technology, basically ensure transfer of goods and services all the way to the last mile.

“But I think the most important for me is the fact that this merger, it would help ensure greater financial inclusion, greater financial deepening, and ensure that in the 200 million -strong people in Nigeria we can basically start to have about 100 million that are financially included,” Wigwe said in an interview with Bloomberg recently.

Wigwe reiterated that Access Bank planned to expand into 22 countries over the next five years.
He said: “We want to have subsidiaries across 22 countries over the next five years, with strategic plans to be present in the major trade corridors in the African continent.

“Building on our successful expansion into Kenya, we will also be making entries into Angola and Mozambique.
“At the moment, Access Bank does not have a presence in the Francophone region of Africa, and we will be working to see that this is changed in the coming years.

“By 2023, Access Bank will have consolidated its position as Africa’s gateway to the world with about 100 million customers in Nigeria and an additional 20 million customers across our African subsidiaries.”
Noting that Access Bank’s innovative payments solution was key to the growth projection, Wigwe said: “Access Bank is set to revolutionize the payment and banking landscape in Africa.

“We would soon be introducing a new payment system that would allow users enjoy a secure, seamless and convenient service when making payments at Merchant locations without cash or card.”

Indeed, recently, Access Bank announced that it had successful completed the acquisition of Transnational Bank Plc of Kenya (TNB), a transaction it first announced in October 2019. Apart from its significant presence on the continent, Access Bank also has subsidiaries in the United Kingdom (with a branch in Dubai, UAE) and representative offices in China, Lebanon and India. Awards In recognition of the various feats it has attained, Access Bank has won many domestic and global awards.