Aig-Imoukhuede’s Return to Access Holdings Plc

The appointment of Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede as the new Chairman of Access Holdings Plc is poised to redefine the landscape of Nigeria’s finance sector. With his proven track record of strategic leadership and innovation, expectations are high for Access Holdings to embark on bold innovations, set new industry standards, and drive unprecedented growth under his guidance, writes Festus Akanbi

For many reasons, the invitation of the pioneer Group Chief Executive Officer of Access Bank, Mr. Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede, to lead the board of Access Holdings Plc is a masterstroke that promises to change the dynamics of the Nigerian banking industry soon.

In line with the expectations of some financial analysts, the sudden death of the immediate past chief executive of the holding company, Dr. Herbert Wigwe, along with his wife, son, and others in a helicopter crash in the US left a big gap in the affairs of the organisation and that a leader in the mold of Aig-Imoukhuede, who alongside late Wigwe built the institution would be in the best position to take it to the next level.

So, it was not a surprise when the company, in a statement last week announced the return of Aig-Imoukhuede as the new non-executive chairman. He is replacing the erstwhile chairman of the HoldCo, Mr. Abubakar Jimoh, who would continue on the board as an independent non-executive director.

The statement said that following the untimely death of Dr Wigwe, the HoldCo Board, after extensive consultations with key stakeholders, unanimously decided to invite Mr. Aig-Imoukhuede to return and help stir the ship of the financial institution as Non-executive Chairman.

“This visionary and accomplished leader is bringing an outstanding record of accomplishments, a wealth of expertise, and leadership to guide the group into a new era of success.” 

It noted that with an illustrious career spanning several decades in the banking and finance sector,  Aig-Imoukhuede has proven to be an exceptional and influential leader, “having admirably laid a solid foundation for Access Bank’s success as Group Chief Executive Officer between 2002 and 2013 ably supported by his partner and deputy, the late Dr. Herbert Wigwe, CFR who later succeeded him.”

Before now,  Aig-Imoukhuede had been engaged in other business ventures. Along with Herbert Wigwe, he also co-founded the Tengen Family Office Limited which oversees a significant portfolio of investments and businesses in banking, finance, insurance, technology, real estate, and more. Aig-Imoukhuede is also the chairman of Coronation Group, a financial services firm in Nigeria that owns insurance and merchant banking businesses.

Access Holdings Plc operates through a network of more than 600 branches and service outlets, spanning three continents, 18 countries, and over 60 million customers. The company serves its various markets through four subsidiaries across the banking, payment, pension administration, and insurance sectors through four operating companies, viz: Access Bank Plc, Hydrogen Payment Services Company Limited, Access Pensions Limited, and Access Insurance Brokers Limited.

Like Aig-Imoukhuede, Like Elumelu, Ovia and Others

Aig-Imoukhuede is not the first bank chief to return as the chairman of the institution he once presided over. In 2014, the board of the United Bank for Africa Plc (UBA) announced the appointment of Mr. Tony Elumelu as chairman, who returned 10 years after he presided over the bank as chief executive for 13 years.

Before he retired from UBA following the introduction of the policy of 10-year tenure limits for bank CEOs by the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, Elumelu had served as CEO of the UBA Group for 13 years.

Also in this category was the former CEO of Zenith Bank Plc, Mr. Jim Ovia, who returned as the chairman of the bank four years after his retirement.

The history of the Nigerian finance sector will not be complete without a chapter on  Segun Agbaje, who was appointed Group CEO of Guaranty Trust Holding Company in August 2021 after he stepped down from his role as Managing Director of Guaranty Trust Bank. Agbaje who was named substantive Managing Director of Guaranty Trust Bank in June 2011 following the death of Tayo Aderinokun, (the pioneering chief executive) handed over the reins of the Bank to Miriam Olusanya in August 2021.

Expectations from Aig-Imoukhuede

Speaking about his return, the past Chairman of Access Holdings, Mr. Abubakar Jimoh expressed his excitement, stating: “Mr. Aig-Imoukhuede’s appointment to the Board and subsequent election as Chairman is a landmark development for Access Holdings. All our board members are excited about our future.”

With the role he played during the funeral of Wigwe, it is an understatement to say that Aig-Imoukhuede was devastated. With his closeness to Herbert, it is obvious that Aig-Imoukhuede was privy to most of the strategic plans being incubated by the deceased having handed over the baton to him some years back. 

Analysts said that given the new challenges currently financial institutions in Nigeria, the appointment of Aig-Imoukhuede became inevitable because of his sheer wealth of experience in the institution in particular and the nation’s finance industry as a whole.

A man remembered for his ability to steer the ship of the bank during the 2005 banking consolidation era when many bigger banks eventually fell by the wayside, Aig-Imoukhuede will no doubt drive the Holdco to the promised land.

He gave this hint in his comment on his appointment saying, “l am thrilled to be back in active service to the Access Group ecosystem. I am confident that working with our directors, our exceptional team of executives and our best-in-class banking and finance professionals, we will deliver outstanding value to our esteemed stakeholders. I am determined that our shared vision which Dr. Wigwe gave everything for, will be realised.”

In its show of solidarity, the board of the company said the new chairman has all it takes to execute the ongoing transformation of the Holdco. It listed Aig-Imoukhuede’s achievements when he headed the bank such as seeing it transform from a minor player into one of Nigeria’s top five banks with a presence in nine other African countries and the United Kingdom; growing its customer base from 10,000 to over six million with more than 5,000 employees and an asset base of USD $12 billion.

“His strategic vision, innovative thinking, and deep market insight were instrumental to shaping the Bank’s success,” it added.

It further explained that the decision to bring back Mr. Aig-Imoukhuede as the Group’s Non-Executive Chairman “reflects the Board’s commitment to our core values and determination to build upon the strong foundation, he jointly established with Dr. Wigwe. “With his return, Access Holdings aims to leverage his extensive experience, industry knowledge, and exceptional leadership skills to consolidate on the growth and accomplishments recorded under Dr. Wigwe’s leadership.

And according to the Company Secretary of the Holdco, “The entire Access Group family, including employees, customers, and stakeholders, eagerly anticipates Mr. Aig-Imoukhuede’s return and looks forward to a promising future under his leadership. With his expertise, passion, and commitment, the Access Group is poised to embark on a new chapter of impact and sustainable success.” 

The Man Aig-Imoukhuede

Aig-Imoukhuede was born on September 22, 1966, in Ibadan, Oyo State. He studied law at the University of Benin, Edo State,  and was called to the Nigerian Bar in 1987. He holds a Trium MBA, awarded jointly by the London School of Economics, New York University, and HEC Paris. In 2000, he attended a three-month Executive Management Programme course at Harvard Business School. 

He began working as a lawyer with Continental Merchant Bank during his NYSC year in 1988. Aigboje joined Guaranty Trust Bank Plc in December 1991 where he resigned as executive director in March 2002.  He was the leader of the 2002 acquisition of Access Bank, then a fringe regional player. He was the group managing director and chief executive officer of the bank till December 2013.

He retired as president of the Nigerian Stock Exchange in 2017, but he remains on the National Council as an ex-officio. He was a non-executive director of Africa Finance Corporation from 2008 until June 2, 2017. He has been the chairman of Associated Discount House Limited since December 1, 2011. He serves as a director of Petralon Energy and retired as the chairman of Wapic Insurance Plc where he has been its director since November 2011. Aig-Imoukhuede also served as board chairman and director of FMDQ OTC PLC until August 1, 2014.

Related Articles