The Rise and Rise of Zenith Bank by Wale Alabi

“THE market, like the Lord, helps those who help themselves. But, unlike the Lord, the market does not forgive those who know not what they do.”- Warren Buffet

“The year 2017 was no doubt a very challenging year for operators in the banking industry due to a number of domestic and external factors. However, true to our track record, Zenith Bank was able to fully exploit the oppor-tunities within the environment. This translated into an excellent performance that stands as a testament to the durabil-ity and resilience of the brand. Clearly, the results are once again a reflection of the financial health of the bank and the group.” These words by Mr Jim Ovia, Chairman, Zenith Bank at its recently held Annual General Meeting in Abuja further affirmed the pre-eminent position of Zenith Bank as a premium brand on the Nigerian financial landscape. But before elucidating on the import of Ovia’s assertion, it is pertinent to take a quick glance at the bank’s 2017 Financial Report.

In his address to shareholders at the AGM where shareholders of the bank approved the board’s proposal of a final dividend of N2.45k per share for the 2017 financial year, in addition to the in-terim dividend of 25k thus bringing the final dividend per share to N2.70k, Ovia said: “Despite the challenging operat-ing environment, we are able to achieve improved performance in our financial results. Our total deposits in 2017 were N2.74tn representing an increase of eight percent over 2016 which were N2.55tn. Our profit before tax also rose by 24 percent from N140bn in 2016 to N174bn in 2017, while total assets of our bank grew by 13 percent from N4.28tnin 2016 to N4.83tn in 2017.” Speaking further, Ovia stated that “Shareholders’ funds rose by 15 percent from N616bn in 2016 to N708bn. Gross earnings also grew by 48 percent from N455bn in 2016 to N674bn in 2017. These impressive financial results are a testament to the durability and resilience of the Zenith Bank brand.”

Also buttressing Ovia’s assertion, Zenith Bank Plc Group Managing Director, Mr Peter Amangbo said the management of the bank had lived up to the vision of its founding fathers in every facet of its operations. “As technology becomes the focus of financial service delivery, Zenith Bank will continue to offer outstanding financial solutions that would be anchored on a superb combination of technology and human touch for easy, fast and secure banking,” Amangbo stated.

Taking a peep into the immediate future, Amangbo said, “Yes 2018 will come with its own challenges and opportunities considering the highly competitive nature of the Nigerian market, the dynamics of contemporary service provision and variable customer expectations. As a strategy towards mitigating the impact of these chal-lenges, we would increase the quality of engagement and be more proactive by anticipating fluctuations in the economy and markets.”

With this impressive result and the futuristic thinking of Zenith Bank Plc management under the aegis of Amangbo, there is no doubt that Zenith Bank will continue to excel as a top financial war horse. The current Group Managing Director, Amangbo is the third CEO of Zenith Bank after the exit of the current Central Bank governor, Godwin Emefiele in 2014. But then it was under the management of incumbent Chairman, Jim Ovia who as the founding CEO of Zenith Bank that the solid rock founda tion was built.

For 20 years, Ovia was the face of the ICT powered financial powerhouse, Zenith Bank. In those two decades, suave, brilliant, technology savvy, American trained Ovia took Zenith Bank, a second generation Nigerian banking brand from obscurity to the apogee of fortune and fame. And what did Ovia do? Leveraging on the power of branding, Ovia gave Zenith Bank a strong visual identity. While other banks were caught in the wave of logo change in the name of rebranding, Zenith Bank refused to join the bandwagon. For the past 28 years, Zenith Bank has remained consistent with its ‘Z’ symbol. And also when you see a Zenith Bank branch anywhere, either in the north or the west the building structure and the glowing white colour paint on the building are unmistakably alike.

But beyond physical branding, Zenith Bank in nearly three decades leveraged on the power of technology, people and excellent service delivery to make life more convenient for consumers. While other banking brands were still snoozing, Zenith Bank won the hearts of consumers with online, real time banking. And when this became the industry standard, Zenith Bank raised the bar by being the first Nigerian bank to have its own ATM gallery. It was this banking excellence tradition left behind by Ovia that was inherited by Emefiele and is also being currently espoused by Amangbo.

In nearly three decades of opera-tions, Zenith Bank has grown from to become one of the biggest and most profitable banks in Nigeria. Established in May 1990 but opened for business as a commercial entity in July of the same year, Zenith Bank went public on June 17, 2004. Zenith Bank was listed on the Nigerian Stock Exchange on October 21, 2004 following a highly success-ful Initial Public Offer (IPO). Indeed Zenith Bank has over the years lived up to its brand promise “to become the leading Nigerian technology-driven, global financial institution, providing a distinctively unique range of financial services.”

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