Much Ado About Aigboje
Barely hours after being announced out as a possible candidate for the position of Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, the question resonates, who is Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede. Questions from visiting aliens really, because you do not need to have worked in commercial banking long enough to know a couple of (individual) names that shaped the banking landscape in Nigeria.
First Bank, Union bank, United Bank of Africa and Afribank (of blessed memory) dominated the banking space until the late 80s early 90s, when many new kids arrived on the financial block sprung up. Access bank, Guaranty Trust Bank, Oceanic bank (recently acquired by Ecobank), Standard Trust Bank, Zenith bank, Diamond bank, etc were the new guys, later christened “new generation (gen)” banks. Fast-forward to 2004, when there were 89 banks in the country, and then again in 2006, with only 25 banks, these new gen banks were a commercial force in a competitive financial terrain.
The new gen Chiefs that stood out included the duo of Fola Adeola & Tayo Aderinokun who created the iconic brand, GTB; Tony Elemelu, the serial acquirer and negotiator who created Nigeria’s pan-African bank, UBA, and Jim Ovia, who created the technology driven Zenith.
However, sometime in 2002, two executive directors at the GTB, took a stroll down the street, from their office on No. 1669 Oyin Jolayemi, Victoria Island, Lagos to No. 1665, the then head office of Access Bank to help build what would become one of Nigeria’s fiercest and most stable banks, Access Bank. These men were Aigboje “AIG” Imoukhuede and Herbert Wigwe and their brave and somewhat daring “walk” has been likened to Mr. Belo-Osagie’s acquisition of UBA. These men were to become CEO and Deputy CEO of the new Access Bank, and together, they drove the bank to heights that were beyond imaginable.
Aigboje has just about spent 11 years and 9months at the helm of affairs of Access Bank, but his achievements have been absolutely matchless. Eleven years ago, Access Bank was an obscure bank and undistinguishable bank. If Tony is a serial acquirer, Aigboje is a serial acquirer version 2.0. From the mergers/acquisitions of Marina and Capital Bank, to the landmark acquisition of Intercontinental bank, ‘Aig’ has indefatigably kept his eye on the goal of creating a world-class financial institution. To simply put it, Aigboje overreached, and achieved, and even this, is simply put.
In many quarters, Aigboje is not your average Santa Claus, and is not very liked. Every other month, there’s bad or awkward publicity. From alleged 6am Monday meetings, or N2million employment bonds, or recruitment processes requiring participants to bring deposits into the banks, or the controversial N200m cash paid out to Mariah Carey for a musical performance, or the sack of 200 (or slightly under 25, depending on what you are reading) senior staff of the bank, or the mass layoff of erstwhile Intercontinental bank employees after the acquisition, or the infamous Coscharis/Capital Oil mêlée, or the million other controversies surrounding Aigboje’s regime, yet the well spoken banker has certainly come up to the surface on every count.
So, if it were a race, by 2002, banks like First Bank and UBA have had 50+years head start; Zenith and GTB have caught up 10+years head start, however the achievement of Aigboje’s Access Bank which started in 2002 (please ignore its existence from 1988 to 2002), can be nothing short of phenomenal. In a few words, “the boy is good”, a genius of sorts.
Aig certainly has some good years ahead of him, and with speculation rife that he’s seriously vying for the role of CBN governor (despite the fact that he already has a full time job as Chairman/”CEO” of Wapic Insurance). A lot of votes will most certainly be on the bespectacled genius replicating his feats at Access Bank and the insurance sector. Whilst we are not oblivious to the fact that this will not come easy, the stakes are high and the country’s financial/fiscal sector depends on the outcome