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Can Agbede fill Herbert’s capacious shoes?

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Can Agbede fill Herbert’s capacious shoes?

…Imoukhuede to the rescue

One significant and impressive quality that ensures the sustainability of any organization is the ability to put a succession plan in place. Experts also reckon that any organization with the above strategy most times enjoys seamless succession especially when their top manager serves out his term, resigns or there is an emergency where the manager dies suddenly.

Access Holdco has proved not to be an institution to be taken for granted. After all, Mr. Aig Aigboje Imoukhuede had served out a ten-year statutory term before the late Herbert Wigwe took over the mantle of leadership in 2014 as CEO of the bank.

Similarly, in its usual character, a few days after the sudden death of her Chief Executive Officer, Dr. Herbert Wigwe, the organization quickly and proactively appointed a replacement for the smooth and strategic running of the Holdco. Herbert Wigwe had died in a tragic helicopter crash in the United States of America with his wife Chizoba and son Chizi

In order not to allow any gap in the management of the holdco, the firm swiftly appointed Ms. Bolaji Agbede as CEO to run the largest bank in Nigeria by assets. But Herbert had been described in many exceptional ways which include banker of bankers, an enigma, professional, and visionary banker. Others said he was fearless, focused, and target-oriented.

However, there have been subtle fears about whether the new CEO can fill the capacious shoes left by Wigwe.

Who is Bolaji Agbede

Access Holdings Plc made a significant announcement on Monday, February 12, 2014, appointing Bolaji Agbede as the Acting Group Chief Executive Officer (GCEO) of the holding company. This appointment came in the wake of the tragic passing of the former Group Chief Executive Officer, Herbert Wigwe, who lost his life in a helicopter crash in the United States last Friday, February 9, alongside his wife, son, and former chairman of the Nigeria Exchange Group, Abimbola Ogunbanjo.

Access Holdings Plc’s Board of Directors had conveyed the appointment of Ms. Bolaji Agbede as the Acting Group Chief Executive Officer, in accordance with the company’s announcement dated February 11, 2024.

Ms. Agbede brings with her nearly three decades of professional expertise spanning banking and business consultancy services, having commenced her journey with Access Bank in 2003 as an Assistant General. She has held various pivotal roles within the bank, including Head of Group Human Resources from 2010 to 2022, and most recently as the company’s founding Executive Director of Business Support since 2022.

Ms. Agbede is a distinguished alumna of the University of Lagos, holding a Bachelor’s Degree in Mathematics and Statistics, and Cranfield University in the UK, where she obtained a Master of Business Administration Degree in 2002. Additionally, she is a member of esteemed institutions such as the Chartered Institute of Management in the UK and the Chartered Institute of Personnel Management of Nigeria.

It’s worth noting that Ms. Agbede’s appointment is pending approval from the Central Bank of Nigeria, as outlined by the company. Abubakar Jimoh, the former chairman of Access Holdings, expressed confidence in Ms. Agbede’s selection, underscoring its alignment with the company’s robust succession planning practices.

He emphasized her unparalleled professional expertise, leadership capabilities, and profound understanding of the Access culture. It is believed that Ms. Agbede’s leadership will be instrumental in steering Access Holdings towards the realization of its strategic vision, aimed at fostering a globally connected community and ecosystem, inspired by Africa’s influence on the world stage.

Agbede’s credentials raise no doubt that as a pioneer staff, she understands the core values, traditions, and ambitions of the Holdco.

This notwithstanding, there is a consensus that no two persons can be the same. The testimonies that have poured in celebration of Wigwe reveal that of an unusual leader who did many other things extremely well of which banking is only one small aspect.

Few details show that since acquiring the 65th largest bank in Nigeria in 2002, Mr. Wigwe and his partner have overseen an extraordinary transformation. By September of last year, the bank’s assets had surged to N21.4 trillion, a remarkable ascent from its modest beginnings.

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When Mr. Wigwe assumed leadership in 2015, after serving as deputy managing director post-acquisition, Access Bank’s total assets stood at N2.6 trillion. In less than nine years under his guidance, this figure skyrocketed by 723%.

His pivotal role in orchestrating the merger with Diamond Bank in 2019 resulted in the creation of Africa’s largest bank by customer base, boasting over 42 million clients. Transitioning Access Bank into a holding company in 2022 enabled diversification into a spectrum of financial services, spanning payments, pensions, and asset management.

Mr. Wigwe’s strategic vision extended beyond Nigeria’s borders, driving mergers and acquisitions in Kenya, Mozambique, South Africa, Zambia, Botswana, and Angola. Additionally, pending deals included the acquisition of Uganda’s Finance Trust Bank Limited and Standard Chartered’s banking assets in Cameroon, the Gambia, Sierra Leone, and Tanzania.

Aig-Imoukhuede becomes chairman of Access Holdings following Wigwe's passing

Mr Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede

Under his leadership, Access Holdings secured approval from the Central Bank of Nigeria in January for the establishment of a consumer lending division, Oxygen X Finance Company Limited. Notable acquisitions encompassed Megatech Insurance Brokers Limited, Sigma Pensions Limited, and First Guarantee Pension Limited.

Mr. Wigwe’s legacy is one of remarkable growth and strategic expansion, leaving an indelible mark on the banking landscape, both domestically and across Africa.

One top banker told BH that Access Holding must have been made for Wigwe and he for the Holdco given his out-of-this-world achievements.

But Agbede is assuming this challenging office at one of the most critical times not only in the lives of businesses but also in the banking industry all over the world and in Nigeria. The Global economic prospect according to the World Bank is the slowest half-decade of GDP growth in 30 years

It also noted that while the risk of a global recession was receding, largely because of the strength of the U.S. economy, Global growth is projected to slow for the third year in a row—from 2.6% last year to 2.4% in 2024, almost three-quarters of a percentage point below the average of the 2010s.

‘’By the end of 2024, people in about one out of every four developing countries and about 40% of low-income countries will still be poorer than they were on the eve of the COVID pandemic in 2019. In advanced economies, meanwhile, growth is set to slow to 1.2% this year from 1.5% in 2023.’’ The report said.

All these have profound implications for the banks domestically. There is also fear that the market regulator’s adoption of a restrictive monetary policy, aimed at curbing inflation, is anticipated to trigger an exchange rate appreciation by potentially attracting capital inflows. The recent hike in the policy rate, from 18.75% to 22.75%, is likely to impose financial strains on the real sector of the economy due to heightened financing costs. Furthermore, the escalating cost of borrowing will further burden banks, whose ability to create credit has been curtailed by increased reserve requirements (CRR). Consequently, analysts foresee a decline in GDP growth in the coming quarters as the elevated interest rates hinder private-sector production.

In a bid to reduce the inflation rate to a target level of 21% by the conclusion of 2024, the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) implemented measures beyond increasing the Monetary Policy Rate (MPR). The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) opted to elevate banks’ Cash Reserve Ratio (CRR) from 32.5% to 45%, thereby diminishing the portion of deposits accessible for banks to allocate for lending. With this adjustment, banks are required to set aside a greater portion of their deposits as reserves with the CBN, further limiting their lending capacity.

These challenges are capable of hobbling the best of financial institutions and moderate performance in the short to long term. It is also clear that the unification of foreign exchange might deny banks huge incomes which has often boosted their performance. This is aside from the prediction that non-performing loans of banks would spike in 2024.

However, experts believe that Agbede is not a small fry given her experiences spanning 30 years both in the banking industry and other sectors. After all, she has been part of the winning team. And one of the assurances in her favour is the presence of the capable hand in the banking subsidiary, Mr. Roosevelt Ogbonna, who has been strong and adept in navigating the operations of the bank to achieve greater height.’’ Roosevelt Ogbonna’s experiences must not be taken for granted’’, an expert told BH.

Analysts believe that whereas Agbede as a senior banker and may play her role but filling the void created by Wigwe’s death will be a toll order for any other person.

They opined that the swift and strategic return of Imoukhuede who is one of the visioners in addition to his vast wealth of experience was the joker.

Vice Chairman of HighCap Limited, David Adonri said, ‘’You can see that Aig Imoukhuede has been brought back to help and support Agbede with his wealth of experience in the Holdco. At the trajectory that Wigwe was driving the bank, it was expedient that somebody who could play at the level of Wigwe should guide and direct the trajectory adequately’’ said Adonri who added the adage that’’ No matter how long a nurse has been in a hospital he cannot be the doctor’’

Recall that Aig Aigboje Imoukhuede who is now chairman after serving as CEO of the bank for 10 years was the pioneer CEO of the bank with rich experience aside from having a good grasp of the bank’s vision, values, and ambition and that of the industry and the terrain.

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