• Monday, February 26, 2024
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BusinessDay

Aigboje, a social engineer with passion for value creation

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After his retirement from Access Bank as Group Managing Director in December 2013, general expectation was that Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede would be named the next Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria because of his excellent pedigree and accomplishment. Aigboje popularly known as ‘Aig’ is a noble and extraordinary business leader with a special capacity to inspire others to greatness.

Aig is an exemplary business leader whose achievements have earned other African professionals the admiration and respect of the international business community. Beginning with the transformation of Access Bank from a lowly-rated Nigerian bank into a leading African financial brand with his partner, Herbert Wigwe, every of his touch and initiative delivered superior value to stakeholders and the African continent.

A quintessential banker and outstanding manager of resources, his excellent leadership style and uncanny ability to bring dreams alive have earned him a pride of place in the chronicle of successful corporate restructuring in the world. By this, the transformation story of Access Bank under his leadership was listed as a case study for MBA students in leading Business Schools across the hemispheres.

Access Bank which is now credited with the most successful growth trajectory in the history of banking in Africa and perhaps in the EME was incorporated in February 1989 as a privately owned commercial bank, obtained a banking licence and commenced business in May 1998. The bank converted to a public limited liability and was listed on the Nigerian Stock Exchange in November 1998.

Until March 2002 after the recapitalisation of the Bank when Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede was appointed by the bank’s Board of Directors alongside his partner, Herbert Wigwe, who currently serves as the Bank’s Group Managing Director with a clear mandate to transform the Bank into a world class financial services provider, its fortune had dwindled so much that experts and analysts had written it off.

With his partner, Herbert Wigwe, the change agent steered the Bank’s affairs off the storm, and returned the perennial loss-making institution to profitability for its shareholders. Interestingly, in their first year at the helms of affairs, the Bank recorded a PBT of N1billion, an amount more than the cumulative profit recorded by the Bank in its entire 13 years of operation preceding the appointment of Aigboje and Herbert in 2002. This stroke of genius which was too glaring to ignore by competitors marked the beginning of value creation the Bank’s shareholders enjoy till today.

Under their watchful eyes, Access Bank emerged from 65th position in 2002 to rank amongst bank top banks in Nigeria. Subsequently, Aig and Herbert led the Bank to acquire Capital Bank International and Marina International Bank in 2007 to enable it meet the Central Bank of Nigeria’s (CBN) capitalisation requirements and affirm its position in the league of Nigeria’s top 10 Banks. So much celebrations and recognitions followed this feat but no one had an idea of the rigors and self-sacrifices by Aig and Herbert that went into that accomplishment

Well, eventually it did not become a much of a work because both drivers had the nimbleness of brain and moves to make an immediate reality of a grand vision. At staff meetings, both will stand for hours, taking turns, to share their vision and the ultimate destination of Access Bank.  Because my function reported directly to Aig, I remember seeing him work into the wee hours of the days and being at his desk early the next morning. When documents are dropped for his review and sign-off late in the night, you meet them upon resumption, thoroughly scrutinised, each page bearing his red or green ink, at your desk.

Aside from having an eye for details, Aig has an amazing mental and physical stamina complemented by this astounding facility for recalling minutiae in a way that rattled the average brain. He is a business strategist with an innate capacity to accurately read and ride the waves of trend. He makes the beach landing before competition even sees the splash! I remember him as a man with manic energy and a laser beam focus for getting the job. His instructions and directives simplify every task he assigns to you and make 75% job done because of their clarity.

As a thoughtful and methodical leader, Aig’s most important contributions to the previously placid Nigerian banking sector which abruptly became a bustling frontier that delivers gold to the bold and adventurous are – strategy and responsible business practices. He is the champion of the principles of responsible business practices that is gradually evolving into a stakeholders’ engagement and differentiation tactic for the entire industry.  The industry adoption and celebration of the initiative accentuated Aigboje’s power of foresight, for he subscribed to the defining principles long before the global economic melt-down that compelled their adoption in Nigeria and across Africa.

Aigboje’s acumen and resourcefulness have not only nurtured his vision to success. He has lent himself to the service of the Nigerian nation in different capacities and contributed significantly towards building a better society for the habitation of mankind. Most recently, Aigboje who is a member of the National Economic Management Committee, a ‘Think Tank’, dedicated to shaping national economic policies also served at the Chairman of the Fuel Subsidy Verification and Repayment Committee.  Consistent with his reputation, he made success of the herculean task which brought huge discomfort to his family and considerable threat to his life by saving the country a whooping sum of N1 trillion, blocking channels through which our beloved country is fleeced of her resources.   

He toiled day and night, forensically combing through documents and activities of interested parties with members of his committee, to unravel the misery behind the yearly ballooning of Fuel Subsidy Repayment that has consistently seen it over-shooting annual budgetary provision. A team player, who does not take personal credit for collective accomplishments, Aig openly acknowledged the contributions of every member of the presidential committee and their selfless efforts at nation building.

This alumnus of the Harvard Business School and law graduate of the University of Benin who started his career in the Legal department of Continental Merchant Bank discovered early enough that he enjoyed making deals better than doing legal works, and quickly transited to core banking.  He spent over 19 years of professional and senior management banking experience at Guaranty Trust Bank (now GT Bank), where he was Executive Director superintending the Public Sector Group before resigning in February 2002 to lead  a team of other professionals to reposition Access Bank for global recognition.

Aigboje’s rounded exposure in his banking career – spanning treasury, finance control and planning, commercial banking and investment banking has proven to be extremely beneficial to the development of the Nigerian economy and its financial services sector. Specifically, the experiences garnered from these specialist areas of financial services have condensed to differentiate him from other leading bankers in his generation and equipped him to make practical and useful contributions to economic development of Nigeria.

His contributions to nation building and social transformational initiatives have singled him out for service to humanity at the global level. For this, he was appointed the first African Co-Chair of GBC-Health, a leading coalition of private sector focussed on addressing health issues. Also, Aigboje served as Chairman of Friends Africa and led other African corporate organisations to donate $1 million to the Global Fund “Gift from Africa” project as a demonstration of the commitment of Africans to addressing some of the problems facing the continent, especially Tuberculosis and Malaria.   

Submitted by Segun Fafore, a graduate student of Leeds University Business School, was Head of Public Affairs at Access Bank Plc.

Over the past decade, he has registered himself as an ardent advocate of responsible business practices and sustainable practices. He has consistently demonstrated commitment towards addressing critical societal needs via participation in global alliances, playing defining roles in global and workplace health initiatives.  The winner of the 2013 edition of the African Banker Award and the 2011 edition of the Ernst and Young West Africa Entrepreneur of the Year Award in recognition of his contributions to the African financial services landscape and his entrepreneurial process coupled with good judgment has won several awards locally and internationally in his glittering career.

Aig who is the chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Financial Markets Dealers Association (FMDA) was named in 2012 amongst the top ten most respected CEOs in the Pricewaterhouse Coopers Most Respected Companies and CEOs Survey in Nigeria.  He is a highly sought after speaker on leadership and entrepreneurship with visible contributions to the African continent.  He is a respected and highly experienced boardroom player, serving on the Boards of several notable Nigerian companies, some of which include Wapic Insurance Plc, Associated Discount House and Asset and Resource Management Ltd amongst others.

He is a member of the Presidential Committee on the establishment of the African Investment Bank, a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria and a Governing Council member of the Financial Institutions Training Centre. Also, he serves as a member of the sub-committee of the Bankers’ Committee on Professional Ethics, Harvard Business School Association of Nigeria, as well as on the Board of FATE Foundation where he assists in inspiring entrepreneurial-driven youths to realize their potentials.

In addition to being a Fellow of ASPEN Leadership Initiative, Aig’s defining role as chairman of the Bankers’ Committee Sub-Committee Development has significantly impacted and contributed to the transformation of the Nigerian economy.  Decorated with the prestigious Commander of the Order of the Niger (CON) for his numerous contributions especially as a member of the National Economic Management Team, industry observers have also attributed Access Bank’s expansion into the United Kingdom and into other African countries such as The Gambia, Zambia, Sierra Leone, Democratic Republic of Congo and Ghana to the practicality of his vision. 

Stretching his chain of achievements, Aig would be installed as the 18th President of the Council of the Nigerian Stock Exchange just a day before his 48th birthday. He was born on September 24, 1966. Although this honour could be seen as a worthy birthday gift to a selfless Nigerian and worthy leader but a deeper consideration would reveal the willingness of stakeholders to build on the legacy of the past President to take the Stock Exchange new heights hence the appointment of this proven turnaround manager and social engineer. 

Submitted by Segun Fafore, a graduate student of Leeds University Business School, was Head of Public Affairs at Access Bank Plc.