Access Bank Targets Eight More African Countries in Expansion Drive

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•Wigwe provides insights into proposed holdco

By Obinna Chima

Access Bank Plc has unfolded plans to expand to eight more African countries as part of a strategy to support trade and finance in the continent and take advantage of the newly formed African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).
The countries are Morocco, Algeria, Egypt, Ivory Coast, Senegal, Angola, Namibia and Ethiopia.

The Group Managing Director, Access Bank, Mr. Herbert Wigwe, spoke on the plans yesterday during a presentation and investor conference call.

Presently, the tier-one bank operates in 12 countries.

According to Wigwe, across Africa, there is an opportunity for the bank to expand to high-potential markets, leveraging the benefits of AfCFTA.

He said AfCFTA, among other benefits, will expand intra-Africa trade and provide real opportunities for Africa.

Wigwe said the bank would use its office in London to expand representative offices in India, Lebanon and China.

He stated that the plan is for the bank to establish its presence in 22 African countries so as to diversify its earnings and take advantage of growth opportunities in Africa.

According to him, Africa has enormous potential and there are opportunities for an African bank that is well run, that understands compliance and has the capacity to support trade and the right technology infrastructure to support payments and remittances, without taking incremental risks.

“We believe that we are best positioned to basically do all of that. Our focus is to become an aggregator in Africa and we are building a global payment gateway and providing trade finance support and correspondent banking across the continent. We are focusing on the key markets.

“The approach would always be that in the country we wish to go to, that we have the right skills. We would not just be a drop in the country in which we are present, we would make sure that we have an impactful presence in each of the major countries in which we are present.

“In doing this, we are also mindful of the country we are going to so as to make sure that it is of benefit to the bank. As we do this, we are working with our friends and partners.

“We are diversifying our earnings away from volatile markets as well and we are orchestrating our operations from the global payments gateway and ensuring that using Access Bank UK, providing corresponding services from digital platforms, the overall profitability of our franchise,” he explained.

Commenting further, on AfCFTA, he said the bank would use its digital framework to benefit from the deal.
“Coming to Nigeria, we think we need to continue to entrench ourselves in the local market because there is still so much work to be done.

“So, we are doing everything possible to satisfy our customers and also to ensure that our channels are adequately secured. We are also ensuring that our staff are very efficient,” the CEO said.

Wigwe provided insights into the bank’s recently approved holding company (holdco) structure.

According to him, the holdco will consist of four subsidiaries: Access Bank Group; payments business; consumer lending and agency banking; and insurance brokerage.

Access Bank Group will consist of Nigeria, Africa and international subsidiaries, while the payments subsidiary will leverage the strong suite of the bank’s assets, Wigwe said.

“The consumer lending business has seen 60 per cent growth in digital lending volume and value. The insurance subsidiary will adopt a dynamic and creative approach to deliver value-added services focused to meet customer insurance needs,” he added.

He said Access Bank has been driving its revenue growth through retail expansion, which has grown consistently across all income lines, driven by a strong focus on consumer lending, payments and remittances, digitisation of customer journeys, and customer acquisition at scale

“We have maintained strong capital levels despite investments for growth, accumulating capital over time.

“Despite investment in organic and inorganic growth in the past, the bank has improved its capital ratios, given optimum capital structure (tier 1 and tier 2),” he added.