Herbert Wigwe, the Chief Executive Officer of Access Holdings Plc, reportedly died in a fatal helicopter accident near the border of California and Nevada in the United States over the weekend, according to multiple sources.
The sources claim that the helicopter went down on Friday night, February 10, 2024, near a city that lies between the two states. It was reported that five other passengers, including his wife and son, also lost their lives in the crash. The helicopter was reportedly heading to Las Vegas.
Therefore, LEADERSHIP is taking a cursory look at his life and times while he was alive, in this report.
Herbert Onyewumbu Wigwe was a Nigerian banker and entrepreneur who passed away on February 10, 2024, at the age of 57. He was the CEO of Access Holdings Plc, traded as Access Corporation, and the former Group Managing Director/CEO of Access Bank Plc. He was a philanthropist and a visionary leader who transformed Access Bank from a small commercial bank into a global financial institution.
Life and Education
Herbert Wigwe was born on August 15, 1966, to parents of Ikwerre descent from Omueke Isiokpo in Rivers State. He had three sisters (Joyce, Peggy, and Stella) and one brother (Emeka). He attended St. Gregory’s College in Lagos for his secondary education and then proceeded to the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, where he obtained a degree in accountancy in 1987.
He furthered his education by obtaining a master’s degree in Banking and Finance from the University College of North Wales (now Bangor University) in 1989 and another master’s degree in Financial Economics from the University of London in 1990. He also attended the Harvard Business School Executive Management Programme in 2006.
He was a Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN), a Fellow of the Institute of Credit Administration, an Honorary member of the Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria, and a Commander of the Order of the Niger (CON).
Herbert Wigwe started his professional career with Coopers & Lybrand Associates, an international firm of chartered accountants, where he worked as a management consultant and later qualified as a chartered accountant. He then joined Capital Bank as a senior manager in charge of treasury and financial services.
In 1992, he moved to Guaranty Trust Bank (GTBank) where he spent over ten years working in various capacities such as corporate banking, institutional banking, and treasury. He rose to become the Executive Director in charge of institutional banking and was instrumental in developing GTBank’s public sector business.
In 2002, he left GTBank along with his business partner and friend, Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede, to acquire a stake in Access Bank Plc, which was then a small commercial bank ranked 65th out of 89 banks in Nigeria.
They embarked on an ambitious transformation agenda that saw Access Bank grow from a regional bank with less than 10 branches to a global bank with over 600 branches across Nigeria, Africa, and the UK.
Under their leadership, Access Bank became one of the most profitable banks in Nigeria and Africa, with a strong focus on innovation, customer service, corporate governance, and social responsibility. They also led several landmark transactions such as the acquisition of Intercontinental Bank in 2012, which made Access Bank the fourth-largest bank in Nigeria; the merger with Diamond Bank in 2019, which created the largest retail bank in Africa; and the listing on the London Stock Exchange in 2019, which enhanced Access Bank’s international profile and access to capital.
Herbert Wigwe succeeded Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede as the Group Managing Director/CEO of Access Bank Plc in January 2014 and continued to steer the bank to greater heights until April 2022 when he stepped down to become the CEO of Access Holdings Plc, a new entity that was created to oversee the non-banking businesses of Access Bank such as insurance, asset management, payments, and digital banking.
He remained a non-executive director of Access Bank Plc until his death.
He founded the Herbert Wigwe Foundation in 2018 to provide scholarships, mentorship, and empowerment to young Nigerians.
One of the most remarkable achievements of Wigwe was the creation of Wigwe University, a groundbreaking institution of higher learning in Nigeria and West Africa. With a $500 million investment, the university set out to transform the landscape of education in the region, offering cutting-edge programs in management, science, engineering, and the arts.
The university, located in Isiokpo, Port Harcourt, received its accreditation from the National Universities Commission in June 2023. Its courses were tailored to meet the needs of vital sectors