Tribute to Herbert Wigwe, African finance icon and philanthropist

by MMC
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In the late hours of yesterday (February 10, 2024), news spread that one of the most influential figures on the Nigerian economic scene, Dr. Herbert Wigwe CFR, the founding Chief Executive Officer of Access Holdings and former managing director of the Access group. Bank Plc, was involved in a fatal air accident in the United States.

After sending shockwaves both abroad and at home, this development went viral on social media, arousing curiosity, to say the least, about the authenticity of its cause. Sources close to, as well as secondary reports, confirmed the incident.

What happened?

Herbert, who is best known as CEO of Access Bank, was in transit by helicopter with five others (including members of his own family) when the plane encountered a technical problem and crashed somewhere in California.

The helicopter designated Eurocopter EC 130 was en route to Boulder City, Nevada, from Palm Springs, but crashed near Nipton, an unincorporated community in the Ivanpah Valley in San Bernardino County.

Others involved in the accident were identified as his wife, his son, former chairman of the Nigerian Exchange Group Plc Abimbola Ogunbanjo, and two others who are yet to be named.

While investigating the root cause of the helicopter crash, the United States Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued a statement confirming that no survivors were found at the scene.

“We were notified of a plane crash at approximately 10:12 p.m. on February 9, 2024. The accident scene was determined to be east of Highway 15 near Halloran Springs Road.” , the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department said. said.

As the reason for the accident remains unclear, the United States National Transportation Board has deployed an investigation team to investigate the event and provide much-needed answers.

Access Bank has not yet released an explanation on the matter, but has informed the public of the update above.

A strength in finance

Herbert Onyewumbu Wigweborn August 15, 1966 in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, is undoubtedly one of the most popular people in the Nigerian (and by extension African) financial sector.

A graduate in Accounting from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN), his professional career began with Coopers & Lybrand Associates, a cross-border organization of chartered accountants.

Shortly after, he joined Guaranty Trust Bank Plc, where he spent a decade managing multiple portfolios for financial institutions, large corporations and multinational entities.

Herbert eventually left GT Bank in 2002 to help overhaul Access Bank, one of the country’s five largest financial institutions. He joined the company as Deputy Managing Director and through his efforts was promoted to Group Managing Director/CEO in 2014.

Dr Wigwe oversaw the affairs of Access Bank until 2022, when (in May) he was appointed as a non-executive director. Under his leadership, Access Bank transferred to a holding company and a modern financial services provider with pan-African reach.

Building on its holding status, Access Bank was able to launch Hydrogen in September 2022, a CBN-licensed digital payments platform. It then won approval to launch Oxygen X, a standalone consumer lending subsidiary.

Herbert also led the expansion of the Bank, acquisition of a stake in Diamond BankIntercontinental Bank, Megatech Insurance Brokers Limited, Atlas Mara of Zambia, African Banking Corporation of Botswana, Finibanco of Angola and a host of other financial companies in the country and elsewhere on the continent.

Mr. Wigwe was Chairman of Access Bank (Ghana), Access Investment & Securities Limited, Central Securities and Clearing System (CSCS) and Chairman of Access Bank (UK) Limited and Unified Payments Services Limited.

He was also a board member of the Nigerian Mortgage Refinance Company and an advisory board member of Friends Africa, which provides personal and social development opportunities to young people.

Real-world impact

Outside of finance, Wigwe’s mark is still evident. As a philanthropist, in 2016 he created The Foundation Howa non-profit social enterprise focused on improving the livelihoods of Africans through impact-driven programs in partnership with non-governmental organizations (NGOs).

In the sense of giving back to society and love for education, last year he revealed his intention to build a university establishment of higher education in his hometown, Isiokpo.

Named Wigwe University, the school, presented as an African first in the Ivy League category, should open its doors in September 2024. invested 500 million dollars on the institution in November 2023.

Teaming up with Access Bank and UNICEF, Wigwe supports vulnerable children, orphans and internally displaced people in parts of northern Nigeria. To raise awareness of the cause, employees organize the Access Bank/UNICEF Charity

A partnership between Wigwe, Access Bank and UNICEF is providing support to vulnerable children, orphans and internationally displaced people in northern Nigeria. To raise awareness for this cause, the Bank organizes the Access Bank/UNICEF Charity Shield polo tournament every year.

Under the aegis of the Bank, in 2008 he created the W Initiative to uplift, prepare, support and overall empower Nigerian women through capacity building and access to finance programs.

His work has earned him numerous awards, including Banker of the Year 2016 from The Sun and Vanguard newspapers, two of Nigeria’s largest newspapers.

Herbert Wigwe’s professional and extracurricular achievements will outlive him and his legacy will remain indelible. Our thoughts are with all those affected by this loss.

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