Herbert Wigwe: Steering Access Corporation’s Sustainable Growth

Obinna Chima writes on the recently released half year results of Access Corporation Plc

Access Corporation Plc recently released its half year 2022 financial result and recorded gross earnings of N591.803 billion for the period under review. This represented a growth of 31.42 per cent year-on-year. Analysts have estimated that the holding company may be headed to a historic record as Nigeria’s first bank to hit the N1 trillion mark in gross earnings this year if the trend continues in the second half of the year.

In its unaudited half-year financials submitted to the Nigeria Exchange Limited, Access Corporation, which is headed by Herbert Wigwe as its Group Managing Director, also made significant improvements across key performance indicators. Its profit before tax rose marginally by 0.42 per cent to N97.791 billion from N97.379 billion reported in 2021.

Also, its profit after tax climbed by 2.21 per cent to N88.739 billion, from the N86.819 billion posted in 2021. Its total assets stood at N13.200 trillion in the period under review, compared with the N11.732 trillion recorded as at the end of 2021. Similarly, its loans and advances to customers was N4.619 trillion, higher than the N4.161 trillion garnered at the end of 2021, just as deposit from customers improved to N7.839 trillion in the review period, from N6.955 trillion as of December last year.

During the period under review, the Board of Directors proposed interim Dividend of 20 kobo per ordinary share of 50 Kobo each on the 35,545,225,622 issued ordinary shares of 50k each payable to shareholders on the register of shareholding at the closure date. Withholding Tax will be deducted at the time of payment.

Furthermore, its net interest income after impairment charges declined by 6.25 per cent to N160.639 billion in 2022 from N171.350 billion in 2021. Fees and commission income grew by 10.42 per cent to N81.100 billion in 2022, from N73.446 billion the previous year.

Commenting on the 2022 half year results, Wigwe said the holding company’s inaugural financial results showed a strong performance, in the first half of the year despite the strong macroeconomic headwinds locally and internationally.

In March, Access Holdings restructured into a holding company that allowed the company to own majority stake in subsidiary companies. The holding company became fully operational in May 2022 and the other verticals: Payment Company (PayCo), Asset Management Company (AmCo), Insurance Brokerage Company (InsureCo) are expected to be fully consolidated from the second half of the year.

“These results reflect a sustainable business model coupled with an effective strategy execution from the banking group, amidst a challenging macroeconomic environment with significant headwinds.

“This reflects deliberate steps to optimise our balance sheet and ensure the Group can support its customers across various markets, in addition to executing our expansion strategy. 2022 marks the final year of our five-year strategy to become Africa’s gateway to the world.

“In the five-year period we have seen enormous growth in our value proposition and international presence as we have expanded our operations across Africa. As Access Corporation enters a new chapter, we are realigning our objectives to create a globally connected ecosystem, offering new interconnected services across customer needs,” Wigwe added.

Access Bank is Nigeria’s largest banking group, accounting for 19 per cent of banking system assets at the end of the financial year 2021.

With digitisation transforming business models and processes in new and greater ways, banks are innovating and adopting models that would enable them achieve competitive advantage. As part of its continued growth strategy, Access Corporation is focused on mainstreaming sustainable business practices into its operations.

The institution under the leadership of Wigwe, strives to deliver sustainable economic growth that is profitable, environmentally responsible, and socially relevant.

In line with this, the holding company recently received approval from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to set up a payment subsidiary.

According to the financial institution, the new wholly-owned subsidiary is named Hydrogen Payment Services Company Limited.

The company explained that Hydrogen aspires to be “Africa’s most powerful business network” which would provide switching and payment processing services to financial service providers as well as other stakeholders.

Speaking on the new subsidiary, Wigwe, who is also its Group Chief Executive Officer, explained, “the establishment of Hydrogen is a natural step in our aspiration to create a globally-connected community and ecosystem; inspired by Africa for the world and aligns with our mission to build and sustain one global platform, open for anyone to join where people can be connected to exceptional opportunities.”

Wigwe said Hydrogen would deploy cutting-edge technology infrastructure, strong risk management and governance standards to provide secure, cost efficient and convenient payment services to individuals and businesses across the African continent.

He added that this would in turn support the attainment of CBN’s financial inclusion strategy.

Last month, Access Holdings received approval to acquire majority equity stake in First Guarantee Pension Limited.

Speaking further on the holding company structure, Wigwe had explained, “So, what the Holdco strategy allows us to do is to begin to look at new markets and new opportunities that a traditional bank cannot offer. So for us, we are setting up a lending company. It must create its own customers outside of what exists in Access Bank to compete for market share.

“So, there would be a lot more financial inclusion, a lot more lending to young people, a lot more ease in terms of opening accounts, among others. The traditional banks are very heavy in terms of cost and expectations, compliance, etc, but what this type of institution does is that it provides the opportunity to support the mass market already, whether it is a pay day loan, you want to fix your car or buy a car.”

The payment company is one that would support the corporation’s Business-to-Business and Business-to-Customers relationship, customer-merchant acquisitions, etc. It is going to be settling payments across the continent. Wigwe explained that it is not just about Access Bank, but they are also going to create a global access payment gateway to ensure that payments are settled not just within Nigeria, but across the entire continent.

“What the payment company does for us is that it would enable us have in-roads into businesses where didn’t have capacity. I will give you an example, today if you use your Access Bank mobile phone, you can make payments to anybody and anywhere in the world.

“So, what we are trying to do is to push and support payments, whether it is by way of trade, diaspora remittances across the entire continent,” he explained.

Also, the insurance brokerage business is to help the holding company preserve monies that ought to be paid to other firm.

“And the final one is our pension company. Obviously, because of our size and our platform and the opportunities, we are going to be playing big in the PFA market.

“All of these things are complementary and the bank is going to build on all of these things to get the full benefits of the HoldCo and the different investments. Obviously, things around agility, taking advantage of the scale of the parent company which is Access Bank are important, managing talents are also very important.

“If you take technology for instance, most of the talent in that market don’t want to work in traditional banks. So, what we have done is to create a structure where we can take them, train them and create a proper career path for them for the benefit of the entire group,” Wigwe explained.

Wigwe, clearly understands that without embracing change and having foresights, banks would not be able to compete and would be left behind by their peers.

This was why he continuously ensured that Access Bank under his watch grew to become one of Africa’s leading financial services groups. He has shown a relentless pursuit for growth, but in a measured and calculated manner.

Wigwe has helped to develop some of Africa’s biggest companies in the construction, telecommunications, energy, oil and gas sectors through Access Bank.

The CEO of the financial institution strongly believes in the vast opportunities across Africa, which was why he aggressively drove its expansion.

According to Wigwe, 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.

Access Corporation, which builds on Access Bank’s scale and ethical standards has portfolio companies with significant complementarities, allowing the ecosystem to walk with customers across their life cycle while delivering value to stakeholders.

The institution had set its sights on how to deliver ambitious plans to transform the African financial services sector over the last 20 years.

Looking ahead five years, Access Corporation is expected to be a leading financial and ecosystem player, with services spanning B2B and B2C marketplaces, B2B services, health, housing, digital, mobility content, mobility, core banking offerings, and other financial services such as insurance and wealth management.

“We recognise and embrace the change that is currently happening and, as we have previously demonstrated, we will lead. Access Corporation will be a driving force in the ongoing digital revolution to the benefit of our stakeholders.

“We will unlock more value for our customers by focusing on distinct business opportunities with high growth rates globally, such as payments and consumer lending,” Wigwe added.

Indeed, the focus of Access Corporation is to become an aggregator in Africa and it is gradually building a global payment gateway and providing trade finance support and correspondent banking across the continent.

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