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Beyond strategic acquisitions under the firm guidance of Dr. Herbert Wigwe, the Chief Executive Officer of Access Holdings Plc, Nigeria’s biggest bank by assets is indeed transforming Africa’s financial institutions’ eco-system, writes Louis Achi.

With little question, Access Bank Plc, a wholly owned subsidiary of Access Holdings Plc (Access Corporation), has clearly successfully gone into Africa’s financial services orbit powered by the cutting-edge growth and governance models birthed by the behemoth’s circumspect CEO Dr. Herbert Wigwe. It’s game on.

One of the spin-offs from this impactful trajectory is the merger consummation of Access Bank Zambia with African Banking Corporation Limited (Atlas Mara Zambia) and the Bank’s subsidiary in Zambia, Access Bank Zambia Limited (Access Zambia).

Late March, Access Holdings Plc announced that it has received final regulatory approval from the Central Bank of Zambia for the acquisition and merger of Access Bank Zambia Limited, and African Banking Corporation Zambia Limited into its existing operations. Access Bank Zambia Limited a subsidiary of Access Bank Plc.

Access Corporation, the parent company of the bank, announced this in a subsequent regulatory filing. In a statement signed by its Company Secretary, Sunday Ekwochi, the entity stated: “Further to its announcement on October 25, 2021, Access Holdings Plc (Access Holdings) is pleased to announce that Access Bank Zambia Limited (Access Zambia), a subsidiary of its flagship subsidiary, Access Bank Plc, has received final regulatory approval from the Central Bank of Zambia for the acquisition and merger of African Banking Corporation Zambia Limited (Atlas Mara Zambia) into its existing operations.

“The Central Bank of Nigeria and Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa Competition Commission had earlier granted their “no objection” to the Transaction in 2022. Access Zambia will now move towards integrating and merging Atlas Mara Zambia into its operations, which is expected to create one of the top five banks in Zambia.”


The business arrangement was first announced in October 2021 when Access Bank Plc entered a binding pact with Atlas Mara Zambia, owners of ABC Zambia, later culminating in the acquisition of the latter.

Access Bank Zambia is hoping to become one of the top lenders in the Southern African country following the merger. It is expected to deliver 70 branches and agencies and total assets in the neighbourhood of $1 billion as well as over 300,000 customers in Zambia. It could be recalled that the Zambian unit of Nigeria’s biggest bank by assets had in 2020 merged with Cavmont Bank Zambia.


According to Access Corporation’s CEO Herbert Wigwe, “The transaction builds on our earlier acquisition and merger of Cavmont Bank Plc into Access Bank Zambia and underscores our resolve to strengthen our presence in Zambia, a key African market that fits into our strategic focus on geographic earnings growth and diversification.”

He further stated that the deal will spur crucial synergies between “Access Zambia’s world-class wholesale and transaction banking capabilities and Atlas Mara Zambia’s market-leading retail and public sector capabilities.”


Wigwe further expects that the collaboration will produce a market-leading global platform that will hugely transform the Zambia market.

British Virgin Islands-based Atlas Mara, which has stakes in a number of African lenders, sold its 50 per cent stake in Union Bank to rival Titan Trust in a deal announced at the tail end of 2021.

Clearly, there are more nifty landmarks to be conquered in the horizon by the tireless visioning and governance nous of  Wigwe. Perhaps not unlike the swashbuckling adventurers who conquered unexplored territories in the tough American West, the Access Corporation CEO revels in pushing frontiers.

This ingrained trait remains his defining trait. Today, the inimitable financial services industry guru is still blazing the trail. But significantly, today, the world and Africa stand on the brink of substantial disruptions – and of considerable opportunity – as new business models challenge traditional templates.


Moving from the post-Covid-19 pandemic which massively unsettled conventional business playbooks and upended the global economy, only tested trailblazers with vision, knowledge and courage can provide the imperative bold leadership to ensure both stability and progression. And this is Dr. Wigwe’s forte.

As it were, a powerful vision draws in ideas, people and other resources. It creates the momentum and will to make change happen. It inspires individuals, complementary organizations and institutions to commit, to persist and to give their best. Keying into this enduring philosophy, unassuming Wigwe has also deployed impeccable professionalism, discipline and persistence to change the traditional narrative of the banking sector in Nigeria and shape the new financial services arena on the continent.


The current positives the Access Corporation CEO has recorded and consistently pushing are not surprising. He has demonstrated with his life’s trajectory that faith, accountancy, banking and international finance fundamentally address transformation of society and the human condition for good. To-date, he unabashedly maintains this unique footing. An unwavering sense of duty, rigorous training and professionalism and demonstrable integrity.

 Wigwe regularly rejects staying tamely at the end of received policy prescriptions. He covets knowledge-driven innovations, proactive engagement with stake-holders, policy makers and sure-footed action. These dimensions have been boldly mirrored in his leadership of one of the continent’s now transformed financial services behemoths.

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With brick and mortar structures of traditional banking practically going extinct and yielding to electronic service delivery, more Nigerian/African lenders have in last few years been pressing to break the glass ceiling where competition is intercontinental. But Access Corporation’s sheer pace-setting boldness takes the cake.

It could be recalled that the completion of its transition into a Holding Company structure led to the delisting of its entire 35.5 billion outstanding shares from the daily official list of the Nigerian Exchange. But it was obvious to most market gurus that the behemoth must have discerned great opportunity somewhere and this needed to be urgently exploited in a rapidly evolving global financial market.


The organisation, now trading under a new parent company Access Holdings (Access Corporation), has since been relisted to reflect current realities of the market.

It could also be recalled that when the corporation’s debuted in 2022, an upbeat Wigwe shared some related insight: “Many of you would have heard us talk about Access Corporation earlier this year.


“This natural evolution of our company will ensure that we continue to use digital tools and our partnership with Fintechs to support our customers’ lifestyles outside of the banking system.

“We have set our sights on and delivered ambitious plans to transform the African financial services sector over the last 20 years. Until now, we have concentrated on banking, with the goal of becoming the World’s Most Respected African Bank.

“Our banking subsidiary is now Nigeria’s largest bank by assets and Africa’s largest in terms of customer base. It is now time for us to take the next transformative step, where we provide our customers with beyond banking services delivering new interconnected financial services across customers’ needs.”

Access Corporation now oversees a group of portfolio companies resolutely driving more value for customers and stakeholders. In Access Bank Group, although banking remains its core mandate, it has now been equipped to provide best-in-class, seamless and consistent customer experience, and service delivery in its operations in Nigeria, and across its 14 subsidiaries in Africa, Europe and Asia.


The Corporation comprises verticals cutting across banking, payments, consumer lending, insurance brokerage and asset management. Access Bank Group will continue to operate in Nigeria and through its subsidiaries and business offices in Africa, Europe, and Asia.

Not surprisingly, in honour of its path-finding roles across the African continent, the Access Corporation has been accorded recognition by reputable domestic and global organisations. Its guiding visioner has not been exempted either.

In June 2021, Wigwe emerged African Banker of Year for the second time, consecutively. A winner of one of the most prized categories at the Awards ceremony for the second consecutive year, he was recognised for his stellar leadership in the market expansion of Sub-Saharan Africa’s largest bank despite the negative impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Commenting on the award, Group Publisher of African Banker and Chair of the Awards Committee, Omar Ben Yedder said, “Herbert is one of the most respected bankers on the continent, without a shadow of a doubt. The Bank has gone from a lower ranked Nigerian bank when he joined the group as Deputy CEO to become one of Africa’s leading financial services groups.

“He has shown a relentless pursuit for growth, but has done so in a measured and calculated manner. What he and his team have done at Access Bank is nothing short of remarkable.”

For the Access Corporation, this unique trajectory, acquisitions and expansions could only have been guided by an adroit, firm pair of hands in the cockpit. This is Herbert Wigwe – and he is not done.

Source: THIS DAY

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