Remembering Herbert Wigwe: A Visionary Leader whose Legacy Lives On

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Access Holdings has confirmed the sudden demise of their Group Managing Director, Mr. Herbert Wigwe whose death occurred tragically, on February 9, 2024.

Wigwe’s remarkable journey came to a devastating end in a helicopter crash en route to the Super Bowl LVIII championship, a testament to Wigwe’s unwavering passion for sports and leisure. Alongside his beloved wife and son, he departed this world, leaving behind a legacy that transcends mere mortality.

Herbert Onyewumbu Wigwe, a name synonymous with visionary leadership and audacious dreams, embarked on a journey that reshaped Nigeria’s banking landscape. Born on August 15, 1966, in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, Nigeria, Wigwe’s journey began with humble roots, but his aspirations knew no bounds.

Wigwe’s illustrious career commenced at Coopers & Lybrand, where he honed his skills in accounting and finance.

He then transitioned to Guaranty Trust Bank, where he served for over a decade, gaining invaluable experience and expertise in the banking sector.

At guarantee trust bank, he ended up as an executive director. In 2002, together with his esteemed business partner Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede, Wigwe embarked on a remarkable journey to acquire Access Bank.

Their vision was not hindered by their age, as they faced skepticism from industry veterans due to their youthfulness.

Undeterred, they forged ahead, securing investments and laying the foundation for what would become a banking giant.

Wigwe’s leadership was instrumental in the growth and transformation of Access holdings, a venture born from resilience and unwavering commitment.

He served as the Deputy Managing Director from 2002 to 2014 before assuming the role of CEO and Group Managing Director in January 2014. Under his stewardship, Access holdings experienced unprecedented expansion, emerging as one of Nigeria’s top banking institutions and Sub Saharan Africa’s largest retail bank by customer base.

His strategic vision propelled Access Holdings’ African strategy, fostering growth and sustainability across the continent. Under his stewardship, Access holdings evolved into a financial juggernaut, ascending to the ranks of Nigeria’s top banking institutions.

Wigwe’s influence extended far beyond the boardroom. He possessed an innate ability to recognize and nurture talent, empowering individuals to realize their full potential.

His generosity knew no bounds, transforming lives and inspiring countless others to dream big.

Throughout his illustrious career, Herbert Wigwe received numerous accolades and honors, underscoring his significant contributions to the banking industry and society at large.

He was named the African Banker of the Year on two occasions by the African Banker Awards, recognizing his exceptional leadership and innovation. Additionally, he was honored as the Banker of the Year by prominent Nigerian newspapers, The Sun and Vanguard, further cementing his status as a visionary leader.

In October 2022, President Muhammadu Buhari conferred upon him the prestigious Commander of the Order of the Niger, a testament to his exemplary service and dedication to national development.

Herbert embarked on his academic journey at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, where he earned a Bachelor’s degree in Accountancy in 1987. Driven by a thirst for knowledge and excellence, he received a British Council Scholarship to pursue further studies at the University College of North Wales (now Bangor), graduating with a Master of Arts in Banking and Finance in 1991. Continuing his academic pursuit, he obtained a Master of Science in Financial Economics from the University of London in 1996.

His dedication to continuous learning was evident as he later completed the prestigious Harvard Business School Executive Management Program. In recognition of his contributions to society and youth development, he received an honorary doctorate from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, in 2018.

Beyond his professional endeavors and the realm of finance, Herbert Wigwe was a devoted family man and philanthropist. He shared a deep and enduring love with his wife, Chizoba Wigwe, and was blessed with four children. His passion for youth empowerment and community development was evident through his involvement in various initiatives, including the creation of The HOW Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to social impact. He championed causes such as the eradication of malaria in Africa and served as a co-chair of the Nigerian Business Coalition against AIDS, demonstrating his commitment to societal progress and well-being.

His commitment to eradicating malaria and supporting HIV/AIDS initiatives underscored his dedication to uplifting communities and fostering positive change.

The sudden and untimely demise of Herbert Wigwe sent shockwaves throughout the industry, leaving a void that could never be filled. However, his legacy lives on through the institutions he built, the lives he touched, and the indelible mark he left on the banking sector and beyond.

Herbert Onyewumbu Wigwe’s legacy transcends the boundaries of time and space. His visionary leadership, unwavering commitment to excellence, and dedication to societal impact continue to inspire generations to come. As we mourn the loss of a visionary leader, we also celebrate the indelible mark he left on the world thereby reflecting on his life and achievements.

Herbert Wigwe’s legacy serves as a beacon of hope and inspiration, reminding us that with unwavering determination and boundless ambition, anything is possible. Herbert Wigwe may have left this world, but his spirit and legacy endure, illuminating the path for others to follow in his footsteps.

In Memoriam: Herbert Onyewumbu Wigwe (1966 – 2024)

By: Carol Opata & Diella Teku/Instinctbusiness Magazine

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