Access Holdings: A journey of impact — transforming lives and building brighter future

Access Holdings PLC has become a standard of transformation in the Nigerian financial sector, with its flagship subsidiary recently being rated by Brand Finance as the Most Valuable Brand in Nigeria, and the 31st in Africa. From its humble beginning to its current status as a powerhouse in African banking, the company’s journey is marked by strategic initiatives, visionary leadership, and relentless pursuit of excellence.

How Access Holdings Became a Global PowerHouse

The story of Access Holdings (then Access Bank) began in 1989, when the Bank was ranked 65th out of 89 in Nigeria. With just 27 branches nationwide, the road ahead seemed daunting. However, the Bank’s fortunes began to change with the entry of visionary leaders Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede and Herbert Wigwe in 2002.

Their arrival marked the beginning of a transformative era, driven by a clear ambition to turn Access Holdings into a world-class financial service provider, a vision that has shaped the company’s success to this day.

The Seven Transformation Agenda

In their quest for excellence, Aigboje and Wigwe introduced the Seven Transformation Agenda, a strategic blueprint aimed at catapulting Access Holdings into the top echelon of Nigerian financial institutions. The agenda served as a roadmap, meticulously charting the course towards excellence.

This agenda focused on seven key areas:
1. Assembling a Credible Management Team: Bringing together top-tier professionals to steer the bank towards its ambitious goals.
2. Introducing a Culture of Excellence: Establishing a corporate culture founded on professionalism and integrity.
3. Ensuring Human Capital Development: Investing heavily in training and development through initiatives like the Access Bank School of Banking Excellence.
4. Implementing Robust Procedures and Processes: Creating efficient systems to streamline day-to-day operations.
5. Building a Customer-Centric Organisation: Focusing on customer satisfaction and loyalty.
6. Designing Low-cost Liability Generation Strategies: Innovating financial products and services to attract and retain customers.
7. Rebranding and Positioning: Redefining the Bank’s image to reflect its new strategic direction and ambitions.
These initiatives bore fruit rapidly, propelling the institution from its modest position to one of Nigeria’s top ten banks by 2007. It achieved a record 115 per cent growth in balance sheets, unprecedented dividends and delighted investors in the process.

Cyclical Objectives: Setting and Achieving Milestones

Access Holdings operates on a model of cyclical objectives, setting five-year goals to ensure continuous improvement and strategic alignment. These objectives have been pivotal in guiding the Bank’s growth trajectory.

The first cycle focused on establishing a solid foundation. The Bank aimed to become a reference point for service delivery, dominate foreign exchange and money market operations, and emerge as an employer of choice. By 2007, Access Bank had achieved these objectives, positioning itself among the top ten banks in Nigeria.

In the second cycle, the focus shifted to becoming one of Nigeria’s top five financial service providers. The Bank sought to lead in project and structured finance, e-business support, and trade finance. These goals were achieved by 2012, solidifying Access Holdings’ reputation as a leading financial institution.

For the third cycle, the bank aimed to achieve top-three status by all financial metrics, and doubled down on efforts to maintain high credit ratings, deliver outstanding customer experiences, and gain global brand recognition. By 2017, Access Holdings had met these goals.

In this period, Access Bank focused on consolidating its position as the number one bank in Nigeria. The lender placed emphasis on digital literacy, global collaborations, and delivering unparalleled customer satisfaction. By 2022, the bank had cemented its status as a retail banking leader and had firmly established itself as a Top 3 banking institution by all major metrics. The Bank grew its scale to span over 6,000 dedicated professional staff serving over 52 million customers across 17 markets worldwide.

In October 2022, Access Bank was restructured into a Holding Company – birthing Access Holdings – to realise the potential of the synergies from the various businesses, while expanding product offering to customers in payments, insurance, consumer finance and pensions.

In line with its ambitious plan, Access Holdings, in 2023 launched its operations in Paris, setting the tone for a robust long-term goal across global trade blocs. The Group has since strategically ventured into new territories, bringing its expertise, resources, and innovative solutions to areas with immense growth potential. These strategic moves exemplify the company’s vision to be a pan-African force, contributing to economic development across borders. Through its subsidiaries, the institution has played a pivotal role in sectors ranging from finance and banking to agriculture, technology, and healthcare, bringing diverse opportunities to the communities it serves.

Following the acquisitions and subsequent merger of Sigma Pensions and First Guarantee Pensions, Access Holdings birthed Access Pensions, instantly becoming a top five player in that industry. Following the completion of its merger with ARM Pensions, Access Pensions will be firmly established as the second biggest Pension Fund Administrator in Nigeria.

With its payment company, Hydrogen; insurance brokerage company, Access Insurance Brokers, and its lending company, Access Holdings is well on its way to becoming one of the Top 5 financial institutions in Africa by 2027.

Vision: A Global Perspective

Access Holdings’ vision is encapsulated in its aspiration to build a globally connected community and ecosystem, inspired by Africa, for the world. This vision extends beyond financial metrics to encompass environmental, social and governance considerations. Indeed, wherever Access Holdings has established a presence, the institution has become a driving force for job creation and entrepreneurship. Access Holdings has sown the seeds of sustainable economic development by supporting Small and Medium Scale Enterprises (SMEs), investing in local businesses, and providing financial solutions tailored to the needs of each market.

As Access Holdings continues to evolve, its strategy includes becoming an African aggregator by building global payment gateways and offering holistic finance support. The Group’s focus on digital transformation, capital accumulation, and strategic expansion shows its commitment to capturing continent-wide opportunities and supporting international growth. Access Holdings’ journey is a testament to the power of visionary leadership, strategic planning, and a relentless pursuit of excellence. From its early days as a modest bank to its current status as a financial powerhouse, Access Holdings has consistently transformed lives and built a brighter future for its stakeholders. As the Group looks to the future, its relentless commitment to excellence all, but assures its continued success and by extension, tangible value for its stakeholders.

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