Access Bank wins Karlsruhe Sustainable Finance Awards 2019

23 Aug 2019, 12:00 am
Martins Hile


Sustainability initiatives of Access Bank's include skill acquisition projects to empower women as well as interventions in the health system.

From L: Tom Hoyem, Former Cabinet Minister and Member, Karlsruhe City Council; Frank Mentrup, Lord Mayor, Karlsruhe City; Herbert Wigwe, Group MD/CEO, Access Bank Plc; and Arshad Rab, CEO, European Organisation for Sustainable Development as Mr. Wigwe receives the Outstanding Business Sustainability Achievement award of the Karlsruhe Sustainable Finance Award 2019

Access Bank Plc, Africa’s largest bank by customer base, has won the "Outstanding Business Sustainability Achievement" award at the Karlsruhe Sustainable Finance Awards 2019. The bank won the global award for the fourth time in a row, having previously been conferred the same award in 2016, 2017 and 2018.
The awards ceremony held during the 9th Global Sustainable Finance Conference (GSFC), which took place on July 11-12 in Karlsruhe, Germany. The GSFC is an annual forum organised by the European Organisation for Sustainable Development (EOSD) and its partners to promote knowledge on the crucial role of the financial services sector in enabling the transition to a modern economy that is green, digital and inclusive. Financial Nigeria International Limited is the Nigeria Country Partner to the EOSD.

Group Managing Director/CEO of Access Bank, Herbert Wigwe, received the award, which recognised the bank’s commitment to placing sustainability at the core of its corporate strategy and philosophy. Driving Access Bank's strategy is the bank’s vision to become the Most Sustainable and Respected Bank in Africa. The bank maintains its commitment to creating a shared value and financing a sustainable future for its stakeholders.

In attendance at the two-day event were C-level executives, CEOs and senior executives of leading global financial institutions, top German government officials, policymakers, regulators and other key stakeholders in the field of sustainable banking and finance.

The awards are given in honour of financial institutions and related organisations and their Presidents/ CEOs for their contributions to the field of sustainable banking and finance. They also recognise financial institutions that have successfully embedded economic, social and environmental sustainability into their business operations and organisational culture. The aim is to promote the growth of sustainable financial instruments and markets worldwide.

The EOSD said there are massive opportunities on the horizon for sustainable finance. According to the organisation, there are a range of new and conventional financial instruments that are in demand for financing multi-billion-dollar investments in climate action alone. Nevertheless, emerging financial technology (fintech) companies are causing challenges for incumbent financial services companies.  

“Disruptions are occurring in every industry, especially in banking and finance," said Access Bank's GMD/CEO, while giving his Keynote Speech, titled "Banking and Finance in The Era of 4.0" on day one of the GSFC. "The volume of data that new web-connected systems generate every second, and the ability of humans and machines to turn such data into insights, using sophisticated artificial intelligence, is at the core of 4.0."  

Wigwe said the Fourth Industrial Revolution is rapidly gaining ground in a world that is developing at an exponential rate. He said in today's on-demand world, 30 billion WhatsApp messages are sent every day. "This is the new age of 4.0," Access Bank's GMD/CEO stated.

“Today, businesses and economies compete in a digitally-networked world in which the key to competitive advantage is no longer the sum of all efficiencies, but the sum of all connections," Wigwe said. According to him, while 4.0 offers opportunities to develop countries faster than ever before, there are threats and challenges to consider. Among these challenges are concerns over intellectual property protection and cybersecurity. He said the major risk is for those who choose not to innovate in the era of 4.0 as they would be left behind. The GSFC 2019 provided a platform for participants to explore these opportunities and address the challenges.

In his remarks, Access Bank’s GMD/CEO also discussed the bank's commitment to leverage the opportunities that technology provides. He said, the bank, along with other global banks, recognises the need to invest in long-term sustainability initiatives as it continues to advance its vision to promote sustainability and make positive impacts.

Sustainability initiatives of Access Bank's include skill acquisition projects to empower women as well as interventions in the health system. The bank was among the group – comprising Aliko Dangote Foundation, GBCHealth and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) – that launched the African Business Coalition for Health (ABC Health) in February. The coalition aims to mobilise business leaders, governments and other stakeholders to crowd-in private investment into the health care sector, champion health care reform agenda and boost innovative solutions that will improve health outcomes on the continent.

The bank hopes to leverage its merger with Diamond Bank to advance its sustainability leadership. With over 29 million customers in 12 countries and a manpower strength of 27,000, the bank says it is committed to lead in innovation and deploy the best artificial intelligence (AI) in banking. Its AI chat bot, Tamada, provides customers with basic transactional and lifestyle needs, including account opening, account-to-account transfers, hotel/flight bookings, weather forecast, among others. The bank’s newly-launched app, Quick Bucks, helps in driving financial inclusion through retail loans.  

In March, Access Bank launched its N15 billion green bond, considered to be the first-ever corporate green bond in Africa to be “Climate Bonds Certified.” The bank said the bond would be used in financing Nigeria’s climate change objectives and address critical infrastructure gaps to drive economic growth.

In April, Access Bank organised the first-ever sustainability summit to be held in Nigeria when it hosted the United Nations Environment Programme – Finance Initiative (UNEP FI) Regional Consultative Forum. The event was organised to promote awareness on the Principles for Responsible Banking (PRBs) launched by UNEP-FI. The principles were designed to provide the global standard or benchmark for banking institutions to know what it takes to be responsible banks.

Other categories of the Karlsruhe Sustainable Finance Awards are: Best Innovation in Sustainable Financial Products & Services; Outstanding Sustainable Project Financing; and Sustainability Leader of the Year (which was introduced in 2018 and was won by Herbert Wigwe, but did not feature in the awards given this year). Some dignitaries at the event were Tom Hoyem, Former Cabinet Minister and Member, Karlsruhe City Council; Frank Mentrup, Lord Mayor, Karlsruhe City; and Arshad Rab, CEO, EOSD.

Martins Hile is Executive Editor, Financial Nigeria