This week’s conversation is with Herbert Wigwe, a Nigerian banker, entrepreneur, and the Managing Director/CEO of Access Bank.

He is an Alumnus of Harvard Business School’s Executive Management Programme.

From his early 20’s, Herbert began what would become a successful career in banking and finance, and his first entrepreneurial venture, would be his most successful.

In 2002, Herbert and his long-time partner were presented with the prospect of acquiring a small-scale commercial bank, Access Bank.

Herbert had spent over a decade at Guaranty Trust Bank and was in-line to becoming the Executive Director in charge of institutional banking.

To have even considered such a decision of obtaining what was then ranked the 65th largest bank in Nigeria seemed like career suicide but Herbert seized the opportunity.

In 2016, The Banker Database ranked Access Bank in the top 1,000 banks in the world.

Today, Access Bank is one of the largest Banks in Africa, a feat which is attributable to his ingenuity and expertise.

I was invited to Nigeria to visit Herbert and Access Bank as a part of the work that we’re doing with them at Compete to Create.

It was my first time in Africa and I was amazed by the vibrance of the people there.

When we consider what’s at the center of mastery, it’s so valuable to hear from people across the globe, so I think you’ll really appreciate getting to hear from Herbert.

“History will only favor the brave. If you don’t try something, you won’t get it. It’s as simple as that.”

In This Episode:

  • Born in Lagos, Nigeria; had to flee civil war when he was only 3 days old
  • Left his family at 11 to go to school in the far North near the Sahara
  • Learned to be independent, understand people of other cultures, accept other religions and found it to be a very privileged experience
  • Had leprosy as a child and learned to interact and socialize without caring about his appearance, also became very finely tuned with environment, could sense danger quicker than others
  • The advice he would give to parenting a child who is a bit different
  • The best thing his mom taught him: stand up to anybody
  • Developing a great group of friends he could trust because they had been through difficult experiences together, gone to school together, and how that paved the way for his business career
  • Acquiring Access Bank, risking everything to do what he thought was right
  • How he looks at failure
  • What drove him to start a bank in Africa rather than work for an established bank in New York
  • His process for continuously learning and improving … it starts with curiosity
  • His thoughts on mastery


Listen via: Apple Podcasts | Android | SpotifyStitcher | Pocket Casts |  RSS



“I get high from seeing other people do well. No amount of money is equal to it.”

“No pain, no gain. If you want to do great things, get ready for bad discomfort. If not you’ll just be average.”


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Herbert Wigwe is a Nigerian banker and entrepreneur. He is currently CEO and Group managing director of Access Bank plc, one of Nigeria's top five banking institutions.