By Nume Ekeghe
The Group Managing Director/CEO of Access Bank Plc, Mr. Herbert Wigwe, has been named the ‘African Banker of the Year’ at 2020 African Banker Awards.
According to a statement, Wigwe was recognised for several socio-economic efforts, including leading Nigeria’s private sector COVID-19 response.
Under his leadership, Access Bank donated over $2.7 million to support the government in fighting the virus while championing the Coalition Against COVID-19 (CACOVID) initiative in Nigeria, it stated.
Additionally, he has advocated other corporate climate change conscious business entities across the country to support the federal government towards the achievement of 25 per cent unconditional and 40 per cent conditional carbon emission reduction as agreed at the 24th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.
Receiving his award, Wigwe spoke on the need for organisations to embrace the institutionalisation and practice of sustainable banking, saying, “financing and facilitating a sustainable future for Africa, and indeed the world is something I am most passionate about.”
He added: “Now, more than ever, Africa needs us to unite as we seek to improve access to healthcare, sustainable energy, finance and improve the standard of living in our communities.
“I enjoin all stakeholders to be a part of the facilitation of a truly sustainable future for Africa. The future of our respective organisations and the future of generations to come to depend on the alliances we form and the actions we take.
“Access Bank has taken steps towards facilitating the future I speak of, issuing the first-ever Climate Bonds Initiative (CBI) certified Green Bond in Nigeria, being a focal point in Nigeria’s fight against the novel coronavirus through the CACOVID, among others.
“Through innovative banking initiatives and our underlying sustainability drive, we will continue to create shared value for all our stakeholders, striking a balance between competitive advantage and corporate social responsibility.”
From his 10-year tenure as the group deputy managing director of the bank to assuming the role of the group managing director, Wigwe has led the bank to grow its balance sheet by 1,022 per cent, from $901 million in 2007 to $19.7 billion in 2019 while pre-tax profits rose to $316 million in 2019, from $21 million in 2007.
The profit before tax recorded in 2007 was more than the cumulative profit made by the bank in the previous 12 years.
“This also marked the beginning of what would be a six-year triple-digit growth trend. In 2019, the Access Bank Group delivered a 26 per cent increase in gross earnings of $1.8 billion, from $1.4 billion in 2018 comprising interest income growth, to $1.4 billion in 2019; from $1billion in 2018, a 41 per cent growth from previous levels, despite pressures on risk asset growth within the period.
“Furthermore, the bank recorded a non-interest income growth of $355 million (12% year-on-year). This net effect on operating income resulted in strong profit before tax of $316 million against N283 million in 2018.
“The strength of the performance reflects a growing franchise supported by digital analytics and improving customer service touchpoints led by Wigwe,” it added.