Banks are spearheading the post-global pandemic restoration of growth and economic recovery. By emerging the “Best Bank in Nigeria” for a second consecutive year in “The Global Finance Best Banks Awards 2021,” Zenith Bank Plc. is reaffirming its bold industry leadership pluck. Louis Achi reports
With his appointment as the Group Managing Director/CEO of Zenith Bank Plc., in June 1, 2019, Mr. Ebenezer Onyeagwu has clearly brought to his job astute strategic thinking, inspirational leadership, energetic and consummate entrepreneurial skills.
He has demonstrated that a powerful vision indeed pulls in ideas, people and other resources, despite the tough challenges.
It creates the energy and will to make change happen. It inspires individuals, diverse stakeholders, complementary organisations and institutions to commit, to persist and to give their best.
It is then little wonder that this focused energy is paying off as mirrored in Zenith Bank Plc’s recent emergence as the Best Bank in Nigeria in the Global Finance Magazine’s Best Banks Awards 2021, retaining the award for a second consecutive year.
Zenith was among other banks from 35 countries in Africa recognised as the prestigious US magazine, Global Finance announced its 28th Annual Best Bank Awards Winners in Africa.
Regarded as the industry standard for banking excellence, The Banker’s Bank of the Year awards is contested by the world’s leading financial institutions, with winners chosen across Africa, Asia-Pacific, Central & Eastern Europe, Latin America, the Middle East, North America and Western Europe.
The editors of Global Finance made all selections after extensive consultations with corporate financial executives, bankers and banking consultants, and analysts worldwide. Global Finance considered factors that ranged from the quantitative objective to the informed subjective in selecting these top banks.
The objective criteria considered included: growth in assets, profitability, geographic reach, strategic relationships, new business development and innovation in products. Subjective criteria included the opinions of equity analysts, credit rating analysts, banking consultants and others involved in the industry.
Global Finance’s “Best Banks Awards” are recognised amongst the world’s most influential banking/finance and corporate professionals as the most coveted and credible awards in the banking industry, with winners chosen in 150 countries and territories across Africa, Asia-Pacific, the Caribbean, Central America, Central & Eastern Europe, Latin America, the Middle East, North America and Western Europe.
In the words of Joseph D. Giarraputo, publisher and editorial director of Global Finance, “this year’s evaluations are more important and valuable than at any point in their 28-year history, given the unprecedented economic conditions wrought by the global pandemic. Banks are playing a key role in economic recovery around the world, and as such, our Best Bank awards highlight the leaders in restoring growth and mapping a way forward.”
Commenting on the recognition, the elated bank’s GMD/CEO, Onyeagwu said: “This award is a strong indication of our resilience despite a very excruciating macroeconomic environment exacerbated by the COVID 19 pandemic”.
He added that the award was made possible by the joint contributions of the bank’s key stakeholders – the Group Chairman, Jim Ovia, for his pioneering and foundational role in building the structures and laying the foundation for an enduring and very successful institution, the Board for the deep insights and outstanding leadership they provide, the staff for their commitment, doggedness, creativity and very outstanding talents as well as the Bank’s teeming customers for their continued support and loyalty.
Zenith Bank Plc has remained a clear leader in the Nigerian financial services industry, distinguishing itself through unique customer experience and sound financial indices.
The bank is also the pioneer in the digital space with several firsts in deploying innovative products and solutions that ensure convenience, speed and safety of transactions.
It is worth recalling that when Zenith Bank Plc. clinched The Banker’s Bank of the Year Awards 2020, it significantly came on the heels of its awards as the Most Valuable Banking Brand in Nigeria and the Number One Bank in Nigeria by Tier-1 Capital the banker won earlier in the year.
As a testament to its resilience and market leadership, Zenith Bank recently announced an impressive result for the year ended December 31, 2020, with gross earnings rising by 5% to N696.5 billion and profit before tax (PBT) growing 5% to N255.9 billion.
Consistent with this superlative performance and in recognition of its track record of exceptional performance, Zenith Bank was voted as Bank of the Year (Nigeria) in The Banker’s Bank of the Year Awards 2020, Best Bank in Nigeria in the Global Finance World’s Best Banks Awards 2020 and Best Corporate Governance’ Financial Services’ Africa 2020 by the Ethical Boardroom.
Also, the bank emerged as the Most Valuable Banking Brand in Nigeria, for the fourth consecutive year, in the Banker Magazine “Top 500 Banking Brands 2021” and Number One Bank in Nigeria by Tier-1 Capital in the “2020 Top 1000 World Banks” Ranking published by The Banker Magazine.
Similarly, the bank was recognised as Bank of the Decade (People’s Choice) at the THISDAY Awards 2020, Retail Bank of the year at the 2020 BusinessDay Banks and Other Financial Institutions (BOFI) Awards, and Best Company in Promotion of Good Health and Well-Being as well as Best Company in Promotion of Gender Equality and Women Empowerment at the Sustainability, Enterprise and Responsibility (SERAS) Awards 2020.
In a clear demonstration of its resilience, the bank’s recently announced unaudited results for the first quarter ended 31st March 2021, showed that its profit after tax (PAT) rose to N53.1 billion, from N50.5 billion recorded in March 2020.
This was despite a very challenging macroeconomic environment aggravated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to the bank’s unaudited statement of account for the first quarter of 2021, the Group’s profit before tax also grew from N58.8 billion to N61 billion in the same period.
The profitability was driven by the optimisation of the cost of funds and improvement in non-interest income.
Tracking back, the appointment of Onyeagwu as GMD/CEO is consistent with the bank’s tradition and succession strategy of grooming leaders from within. He is a vastly experienced banker and financial expert, trained in reputable institutions of learning in Nigeria, the United Kingdom and United States of America.
A graduate of Accounting from Auchi Polytechnic where he obtained the Ordinary National diploma in 1984 and Higher National Diploma in 1987, Onyeagwu qualified as a Chartered Accountant in 1989 while he was still undergoing the compulsory National Youth Service Corp (NYSC) post -graduation and was named a Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (FCA) in 2003.
He is an alumnus of the prestigious University of Oxford, England, from where he obtained a Postgraduate Diploma in Financial Strategy, and certificate in Macroeconomics. He also undertook extensive executive level business education in Wharton Business School of the University of Pennsylvania, Columbia Business School of Columbia University, the Harvard Business School of Harvard University (all in the United States) and Lagos Business School of the Pan African University, Nigeria.
He has nearly 30 years’ experience in the banking industry in Nigeria. He joined Zenith Bank Plc in 2002 as a Senior Manager, in the Internal Control and Audit Group of the bank. His professionalism, competence, integrity and commitment to the set objectives of the bank saw him rise swiftly between 2003 and 2005, first, as Assistant General Manager, then Deputy General Manager, and eventually as General Manager of the bank. In these capacities, he handled strategies for new business and branch development, management of risk assets portfolios, treasury functions, strategic top level corporate, multinationals and public institutional relationships, among others.
As Deputy Managing Director, he oversighted the bank’s Financial Control and Strategic Planning, Risk Management, Retail Banking, Institutional and Corporate banking business portfolios, IT Group, Credit Administration, Treasury and Foreign Exchange Trading, as well as general administration of the bank, among others.
He was named Executive Director of the bank in 2013, and put in charge of Lagos and South-South Zones as well as strategic groups/business units of the bank including Financial Control & Strategic Planning, Treasury and Correspondent Groups, Human Resources Group, Oil and Gas Group, and Credit Risk Management Group, etc. He was named Deputy Managing Director of the bank in 2016.
He has been on the board of Zenith Bank Ghana, Zenith Pensions Custodian Limited, Zenith Nominees Limited and African Finance Corporation (AFC) within the last six years. In AFC, he serves on the Board Risk & Investment Committee (BRIC) and Board Audit & Compliance Committee (BAAC). At Zenith Bank Ghana, he chairs the Board Credit and Governance Committees.
As Zenith Bank adroitly firms up its grip on the banking industry’s leadership, against the backdrop of the unprecedented economic conditions wrought by the global pandemic, spearheading economic recovery and watched carefully by its rivals, the sky can hardly be her limit.