Herbert Onyewumbu Wigwe, born on August 15, 1966, in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, Nigeria, was a distinguished Nigerian banker and businessman whose impactful leadership transformed Access Bank Plc into one of Nigeria’s top financial institutions. His tenure as CEO and Group Managing Director from January 2014 to April 2022 marked a period of significant growth and innovation for the bank.
Early Life and Education: Herbert Wigwe pursued his academic journey with determination and excellence. He obtained a Bachelor’s degree in Accountancy from the University of Nigeria in 1987. Furthering his education, he received a Master of Arts in Banking and Finance from the University College of North Wales (now Bangor) in 1991, supported by the prestigious British Council Scholarship. Subsequently, he earned a Master of Science in Financial Economics from the University of London in 1996. Committed to continuous learning and professional development, Wigwe completed the Executive Management Program at Harvard Business School. In recognition of his outstanding contributions to the banking sector, he was awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, in 2018.
Career: Wigwe’s illustrious career began at Coopers & Lybrand, where he honed his skills in accounting and finance. He later joined Guaranty Trust Bank, where he spent over a decade gaining invaluable experience in the banking industry.
In 2002, Herbert Wigwe, alongside his business partner Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede, orchestrated the acquisition of Access Bank, setting the stage for remarkable transformation. Under their stewardship, Access Bank ascended from being the 65th largest bank in Nigeria to the esteemed position of the 4th largest within a span of fifteen years (2002-2017).
Throughout his tenure, Wigwe held various key positions within Access Bank, including Deputy Managing Director and Chairman of Access Bank Ghana Limited. He also chaired Access Investment & Securities Limited and Central Securities and Clearing System (CSCS). At the time of his passing, he served as the Chairman of Access Bank (UK) Limited. Additionally, he contributed his expertise as a board member of the Nigerian Mortgage Refinance Company and as a member of the advisory board for Friends Africa. His professional affiliations included being a Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN – FCA), a Fellow of The Institute of Credit Administration, and an Honorary member of the Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria.
Legacy at Access Bank: Herbert Wigwe’s visionary leadership was instrumental in shaping Access Bank’s corporate culture and strategic direction. He spearheaded initiatives such as ‘The Access Conference,’ a thought-leadership series aimed at addressing global challenges through corporate engagement. The conference convened influential figures from around the world, fostering dialogue on critical issues such as sustainable leadership and innovation.
His commitment to corporate social responsibility was evident through Access Bank’s collaboration with UNICEF to support vulnerable children and internally displaced persons in Nigeria’s northern region. Additionally, Wigwe established The HOW Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to empowering communities and promoting sustainable development.
Personal Life and Philanthropy: Beyond his professional achievements, Herbert Wigwe cherished his family life. He was married to Chizoba Wigwe, and together they were blessed with four children.
Wigwe’s philanthropic endeavors extended beyond banking, as evidenced by his involvement in initiatives such as the Nigerian Business Coalition against AIDS (NiBUCCA) and the establishment of Wigwe University, slated to open in fall 2024.
Tragic Passing: On February 9, 2024, Herbert Wigwe’s life was tragically cut short in a helicopter crash near Nipton, California. His untimely demise, alongside his wife, son, and other esteemed individuals, sent shockwaves through Nigeria and the global business community, leaving behind a legacy of excellence, integrity, and compassion. Herbert Onyewumbu Wigwe’s enduring contributions to the banking sector and society at large will forever be remembered and celebrated.