Herbert Wigwe, quintessential and distinguished banker is the Group Managing Director and Chief Executive if Access Bank Plc, has continued to chart the map of the bank to not only continents of the world, but also deepen its presence in financial capitals of the world, lately France.
Indeed, the French Government has indicated that it is fostering its ties with Nigeria’s captains of industry, including Herbert Wigwe, who recently announced that his bank would open a Paris branch.
Wigwe confirmed during the Choose France foreign investment summit hosted on 28 June by President Emmanuel Macron that he wanted to open a branch in Paris.
This was to the great satisfaction of the French government, which had been carefully preparing the ground for several months with Wigwe and his team.
With a turnover of 765bn naira ($1.9bn) and a net profit of 106bn naira ($257), Access is one of Nigeria’s leading banks and France and the French stand to benefit great from this deep financial vault.
French Trade Minister Frank Riester met Wigwe during a visit to Nigeria in April. Christian Noyer, a former French central bank governor appointed by the government in 2016 to promote Paris as a financial centre post-Brexit, spoke with Wigwe several times on the phone to assure him that he had support of the French authorities.
Noyer is also liaising with the French Treasury department and the Autorité de Contrôle Prudentiel et de Résolution, the banking supervisory body, to facilitate Access Bank gets a banking licence without challenges.
Although two other Nigerian banks already have representative offices in Paris, Access Bank’s new French branch could for its part operate as more than just a represenative office.
Access Bank’s opening in Paris will be managed by the group’s London branch, headed by Briton Jamie Simmonds. The new offices in France will focus on trade finance. The Nigerian bank is also considering moving into investment and wealth management services.
There is no doubt that this move is another feather to Wigwe, who has been running Access Bank since 2002 and has an all-Nigerian team, some of whom followed him when he left Nigeria’s Guaranty Trust Bank, to help him expand the lender’s activities.
His deputy Roosevelt Ogbonna, his commercial banking manager Hadiza Ambursaand his director for African subsidiaries Seyi Kumapayi all worked under him at Guaranty Trust, where he was executive director from 1999 to 2002.
Indeed, from its Lagos headquarters, Access Bank had risen to become one of Nigeria’s leading banks with a series of acquisitions led by Wigwe.
The acquisition of Nigerian rival Diamond Bank in 2019 consolidated Access Bank’s position. With Wigwe, Access Bank is now present in Ghana, DR Congo, Gambia, Sierra Leone, Rwanda, Mozambique, Kenya, Zambia and the United Kingdom, and is looking to boost its presence in French-speaking West Africa. Hence the interest of a branch in Paris, which is particularly well connected with West African financial circuits.
Macron, who as a student, did an internship at the Abuja embassy in 2002, and has a strong interest in Nigeria, which was the only country to have had a dedicated forum at the Choose France summit.