NO GUTS, NO GLORY: The Story of Wigwe and Aig-lmoukheude at Access Bank

BY BRIGHT PROJECT

For me, one of the best stories of entrepreneur masterpiece in history was how two managers of G.T.Bank Plc took over Access Bank’s management back in 2002/2003, when it was just in the 52 position out of the about 82 banks in the industry in Nigerian ,and turned it into the biggest retail bank jn Africa today.

As one who was opportuned to seat through the presentation of their financial plan at the time I marvel at how Aigbaje Aig – Imoukhude and Herbert Wigwe didn’t just deliver on their promises but has already bested their projections as regards the bank .Nevertheless to achieve their aims and objectives and put the bank on the global map; Access bank Plc have had to encounter several bus stops and road blocks. So it’s a case of enduring multiple trajectories before its recent merger with Diamond Bank.

But what has remained unchanged in that presentation of 2002 is the strategy; as Adegoke Adeleke, a member of Independent Shareholders Association of Nigeria (ISAN) testified at the banks recent Annual General Meeting (AGM). According to him the plan has always been to use both organic and inorganic means to grow the bank. This he said rmandated the managers to always set apart enough capital to take opportunities whenever it appears.

However, it has been a case of no guts, no glory if you look at the banks trajectory. When the bank was run by Aigboje in 2005 there were controversial media reports of a move by Access bank Plc to take over Union Bank Plc then the 2nd bank in the sector after First Bank. According to the reports the move was in co-hurts with a top manager of Union Bank Plc at the time. But the wind of time blew away that wafting news as people wondered how the minion Access bank could take over such a giant bank.

Soon the speculation was that Access Bank was in bid to take over Afribank Plc and had already purchased N18billion worth of shares of the bank. According to the speculation because Central Bank of Nigeria(CBN) would not allow a forced takeover of any Nigerian bank, Access bank was asked to sell off its investment in the bank. That was how that one blew over. Recall that Afribank later became Mainstream Bank(a bridge bank) during the era of Lamido Sanusi at CBN.

Another speculation that era was that Access Bank had acquired Intercontinental Bank Plc with a sum total of N25billion. By that time the speculation had become so much that many no longer thought Access Bank too small  to acquire the bigger bank.This time the speculation became a reality as Access merged with Intercontinental Bank or collapsed into intercontinental Bank just like Diamond Bank did recently .Of course, Festus Akingbola, the CEO of Intercontinental reportedly wasn’t happy with the development and harped about the fact that CBN Governor at the time, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi did it in bad taste.

Hence, the current merger with Diamond Bank could be said to be the most peaceful that Access Bank have had .But by this time, Aigboje had handed over as CEO of the bank to Herbert Wigwe and had served as the President of the Nigerian stock Exchange (NSE) and is now the Chairman of Access Bank’S insurance subsidiary, WAPIC.He is also known as the man behind the creation of FMDQ which have helped the deregulation of the nations capital market while he served as the President of NSE

Apparently, the achievements of the two managers of the bank since 2003 also cannot be said to be small .But they did not make it without grit and candor. It’s by cold business calculations and nothing more… it’s not by niceties and fancifulness. Perhaps a look at the books of G.T Bank plc where they cut their teeth in banking maybe enough to disclose their secrets .G.T Bank is the only organization on the floor of the exchange who   could gross about #400billion and above and declare a profit of between #150billion to #200billion  .

It’s impossible to achieve that kind of profit margin without being      extremely shrewd, diligent and un- merciful.

Between the two of them Aig-Imoukheude being a lawyer is more open and favorable with dividends. But Wigwe is a core banker and business man who is more attuned to building a business that last. So, you would be lucky if he agrees to pay 50% of PAT every year. For him, setting apart capital is vital in wait of opportunities

So, one had a good laugh at Access Bank last AGM where a shareholder whined in some words along their lines “how can you be paying us this small dividend despite the huge profits we made?” Wigwe’s answer was that because of the merger the bank has to be cautious in ensuring that the franchise is solid. He said things along the same lines in the previous AGM in 2017 when he disclosed he wants to build a bank that would out last everyone in the room at the Palace Hotel’S event center.

Meanwhile as Chairman of WAPIC Aigboje is battling to see whether the insurance sector can become as lucrative as the banking sector .if he succeeds it will be a great one for Nigerian investors who has not seen much profit from that sector.

Apparently, he is not too far away to jaw-jaw with his friend, Wigwe. Perhaps one of the things he should be telling him is to throw a big fish sometimes to the shareholders. Like a retail shareholder said recently some of them depend on the dividend to survive and they are no longer young. So to some of them- now should be pay day not later. Even though the bank’s corporate gifts to its shareholders at the AGM is rated as the best and one that was genuinely motivated by good corporate social responsibility by shareholders who spoke to us.