Africa: Access bites big and fast with Diamond
Herbert Wigwe, CEO of Access Bank, says his institution’s announced merger with Diamond Bank will not only make it Africa’s largest bank by customers but also give it the potential to double its client base within just two or three years.
It’s a deal that few saw coming – or in any case not as fast as it did. The planned merger of Nigeria’s Access and Diamond banks, announced late last year, could be transformative for the country’s banking sector.
The merger, if approved by shareholders and regulators, would create Africa’s largest bank by customers – 29 million – and Nigeria’s largest bank by assets, ahead of long-term leader Zenith Bank.
Speaking exclusively to Euromoney in late January, Access Bank’s chief executive, Herbert Wigwe, and his closest adviser, Bolaji Balogun at investment bank Chapel Hill Denham, highlight the transaction’s importance.
Asked what is appealing about Diamond Bank, Wigwe cites its large retail business of 19 million customers, the quality of its digital offering and its successes in financial inclusion. But he also looks ahead to the potential growth Diamond could bring, pointing to the bank’s strong relationship with mobile operator MTN Nigeria.
“We said to ourselves, this can create another 20 to 30 million customers over the next two to three years,” he says.
Access already has a strong relationship with Airtel, the other big mobile operator in Nigeria, Wigwe says.