9 things you didn’t know about buying a bank in Africa


Former CEO of Access Bank, Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede in his new book titled Leaving the Tarmac: Buying a Bank in Africa details how he and Herbert Wigwe bought Access Bank in 2002, one of the smallest and most crisis- prone banks in Nigeria and built it into one of the biggest and strongest banks in the country.

Here are some of the things that helped Aig-Imoukhuede achieve this feat.


Aig-Imoukhuede recounts a life changing incident in his childhood when he was left behind on the literal tarmac as an airplane took off without him. This experience inspired him to take charge of his future and he resolved never to be left on the figurative tarmac again.

Aig-Imoukhuede was only 36 years old when he took on the momentous challenge of Access Bank

Build relationships with like-minded people

Through Aig-Imoukhuede success story, it was evident that he did not achieve this fit just by himself. He started the company with his friend Herbert Wigwe.

“I liked the idea of having a partner for this venture because I believed that this way we would have ‘four eyes’ of leadership instead of two, which is always a good idea in any situation, particularly one as complex as building a bank,” he said.


Buying a bank comes with its challenges as it was not a bed of roses but Aig-Imoukhuede said he was able to achieve his goal by being tenacious and never giving up.

“There were periods when Herbert and I despaired of ever finding a deal that would match all our criteria, but we kept on going, refusing to give up, which is quite possibly the most fundamental rule of true entrepreneurship.

Many believed that Herbert and I were crazy to take on such a challenge, that it would be an impossible task given the precarious situation that the bank was in and the uncertainties that faced Nigerian Banks due to the pace of regulatory intervention taking place both within and outside Nigeria,” he said in his book.

Excellence and leadership

Aig-Imoukhuede clearly was not one to sit back and watch things happen, he was intentional about every phase of the bank’s growth. This reveals his desire to be excellent at what he does and also ensuring everyone around him has the same drive.

“I have always taken a deep personal interest in the people we recruit and between 2002 and 2011, I chose to interview every single professional we would employ. I ended up interviewing more than five thousand people, becoming the final screening point of a very rigorous recruitment process.

Clear vision

Having a vision provides a sense of purpose and direction for the business.

“Our mandate was clear from the moment we took control of the ailing bank; the set task was to reposition it to become one of Nigeria’s ten leading financial institutions within five years of our arrival.”

Find the right role models

Aig-Imoukhuede also mentioned that his success was also tied to finding the right role models that have succeeded in what he wanted to do. According to him, he looked out for people that he admired and wished to emulate, compete with and eventually best if possible.

Some of the role models he mentioned are IBTC, founded by Atedo Peterside, Diamond Bank founded by Pascal Dozie, Guaranty Trust Bank, which was co-founded by Fola Adeola and Tayo Adenirokun, and Zenith Bank founded by Jim Ovia.

Corruption breeds mediocrity

Aig-Imoukhuede says beyond bribes, leakages and theft of public funds, the truly debilitating consequence of corruption is the fact that in any nation where corruption is rife, merit cannot have its way.

According to him, corruption has implanted the virus of mediocrity in several aspects of Nigerian life to the point where performance in many fields of endeavour is much worse today than it was fifty years ago.

Have a good succession plan

A good succession plan is necessary plan in running a bank. The former CEO handed over to his partner Herbert Wigwe when he stepped down as CEO in 2013 and the bank has been doing well ever since.

All successful companies need to plan for a smooth succession to ensure that they continue to grow and thrive at the same rate through successive leadership changes.

Belief and motivation

The author also mentioned how his belief in God was a major reason for his success.

“I’m a firm believer in God and His power to make all things possible. I know that He had looked at these two young men, listened to their plans and chose to make them a reality.

I say this knowing as I do that while we are very capable, several of the milestones that you will read about in this book did not happen of our making. There are too many unexplained coincidences, accidents of timing, events of chance that can only be attributed to the Almighty,” Aig-Imoukhuede pointed out.

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