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What Herbert Wigwe Did In Banking Industry Cannot Be Easily Replicated, Says Fidelity Chairman Chike-Obi

“I think it was his mental toughness, his discipline, and also his ability to manage risks.”

The Chairman of Fidelity bank of Nigeria, Mustafa Chike-Obi, has said that the late Group Managing Director/CEO of Access Bank, Herbert Wigwe, has said that it will be difficult for those in the banking industry to replicate what Wigwe did and to achieve what he had achieved in his lifetime with the industry.

Chike-Obi, while speaking on an interview with ARISE NEWS on Monday, also said that above all of Wigwe’s esteemed qualities that had been spoken of by people around the world, the quality that he (Chike-Obi) will remember as Wigwe’s best quality was his kindness.

Reflecting on the late Wigwe’s achievements in the banking industry, the Fidelity Chairperson said, “It will be difficult for any of us to do what Herbert did. When he was acquiring Intercontinental Bank, I thought he was absolutely out of his mind, he made a success of it. A few years later, he wanted to merge Diamond Bank. I called him, I said, are you aware that Diamond Bank has a negative equity? What are you doing? He said don’t worry big brother- which is what he called me, I wonder why- I know what I’m doing. I was sceptical, and he did it.

“So, what you’re asking me is can I tell people how Picasso did his paintings, or how some of these great minds, Einstein, came up with mc squared, I wish I could tell you. I can just tell you that the things that he thought about and the way he executed them were beyond what I, even as a banker, could conceive. So, I’m at a loss to say, you can do this, go and replicate what Herbert did, I don’t think it’s easily replicated.”

He continued recounting Wigwe’s successes as he said, “Their first big purchase was the purchase of Intercontinental Bank, I remember all the negotiations and all the conversations. And I came away thinking about Herbert to be a very tough, very smart, very hardworking, and an extremely fair and kind person. The idea in the market that Intercontinental bank was given to them is very false.

“Nobody else, having done due diligence on that bank, wanted any part of that bank. But the courage, the vision of Herbert and his partner Aigboje at the time, they were the only bidders for Intercontinental Bank at that time. And they did not get the bargain. They took it over, they worked at integrated, and they made it a success there. It is today.”

Chike-Obi was then questioned on what he believed contributed to Wigwe’s success and he said, “I think it was his mental toughness, his discipline, and also his ability to manage risks. I have had a few occasions, some people out there will remember that they’ve had to default on some loans to Access Bank, and that’s something you don’t do because his toughness comes into play. So, I think that in Banking as a whole, risk management, discipline, and toughness will generally give you success, and he was exceptional at those things. So, it’s something you can teach bankers, but to actually carry it out in practice consistently is very difficult.”

He further said that Wigwe, along with his then partner at Access Bank, Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede, had a tremendous amount of work ethics and one of the best work rates that he had seen in any banker, saying that his discipline, work ethic and work rate were hard to find in the same person. He said, “I think that that’s the reason for their success, that’s the reason why Access Bank will continue to succeed. I think that Aigboje and Herbert have imparted that on their employees, and I think we’re going to see greater things from the Access Corporation, and I hope that any gaps left by Herbert’s unfortunate passing, that Aigboje will dust off his cap and step into the breach and help until new people are groomed.”

Speaking to the succession plan of Access Bank, Chike-Obi said, “I think that the vision of Access Bank was created, nurtured, and shared by Aigboje and Herbert. And luckily for us, Aigboje is still around, so the vision is alive. I believe that based on that, the succession planning will be smooth, and I think it will be fairly obvious and I think it will be soon.

“I will also point out that the Central Bank of Nigeria examines banks every year, and one of their biggest issues for banks is succession planning. They are very very interested in seeing the succession plans for all banks and will cite a bank for not having well organised succession plans. So, I am sure there is a succession plan in place at Access Bank approved by the CBN, and I think that people should not have any concerns about the smooth transition to the next leader of Access Bank.”

Chike-Obi said that Wigwe was an extremely kind man, one who was constant in giving support to him, saying, “I think for all his qualities brilliantly mentioned, the one that I, his family, his friends, his community, and the nation at large will miss most is his kindness. Herbert, we thank you for your kindness, we miss you.”

Ozioma Samuel-Ugwuezi

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