Nigerian banker Herbert Wigwe, the co-founder and CEO of Access Corporation, an African financial services giant, died on Saturday in a tragic helicopter crash.
The incident occurred near Nipton, Calif., close to the California-Nevada border, where the Eurocopter EC130 helicopter carrying Wigwe, his wife Chizoba, his son, and Nigerian lawyer Abimbola Ogunbanjo crashed at approximately 10PM local time.
Wigwe ranked as one of Nigeria’s wealthiest individuals with a 9.09-percent stake in Access Holdings valued at $54 million, was instrumental in shaping Access Holdings into Nigeria’s largest bank by assets. The Federal Aviation Administration reported that the helicopter took off from Palmsprings, but its destination remains unclear.
Legacy of Access Holdings CEO: A pioneer in African finance, A global visionary
The visionary banker, who took the helm as group managing director of Access Holdings in 2014, was a key figure in the conglomerate’s success. By Sept. 30, 2023, Access Holdings boasted total assets of N21.4 trillion ($14.5 billion), making it a dominant force in the Nigerian financial landscape.
Wigwe’s leadership garnered international recognition when Access Holdings received approval in December 2023 from the Hong Kong Monetary Authority to establish a Restricted Licence Branch in Hong Kong, aligning with the conglomerate’s ambition to become the world’s most respected African Bank.
Additionally, in 2023, Access Holdings revealed plans for the acquisition of Sub-Saharan African subsidiaries of the UK-based multinational bank Standard Chartered Bank.
A legacy carved in corporate transformation and educational empowerment
The late CEO’s career trajectory began at Coopers & Lybrand Associates, an international firm of Chartered Accountants. He spent over a decade at Guaranty Trust Bank Plc, managing diverse portfolios, before co-leading the transformation of Access Bank Plc in 2002 as deputy managing director. Wigwe served as group managing director and CEO from Jan. 1, 2014, to May 2022, after which he became a non-executive director of the bank.
An alumnus of the Harvard Business School Executive Management Program, Wigwe’s commitment to education manifested in his November 2023 announcement of a transformative $500-million investment for the establishment of Wigwe University. The university aimed to address Nigeria’s growing skills deficit by offering cutting-edge courses starting from the next academic year.
Access Holdings and the Nigerian financial community mourn the loss of Herbert Wigwe, a visionary leader who played a pivotal role in reshaping the landscape of African banking. The circumstances of the helicopter crash are under investigation, and further details are awaited.