Onyeagwu Takes Over As Zenith Bank GMD, June 2019: Facts Behind The Smooth Transition

The Oasis Reporters

April 9, 2019

Ebenezer Onyeagwu, incoming GMD/CEO, Zenith Bank Plc.

In keeping with the stable and seamless tradition of transition in one of Nigeria’s most successful banks, Zenith Bank Plc. has announced the appointment of Mr. Ebenezer Onyeagwu as the Group Managing Director/CEO of the bank effective June 1, 2019, subject to the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) approval.
The bank, whose succession tradition includes the strategy of grooming leaders from within, picked Onyeagwu to replace Mr. Peter Amangbo, whose tenure expires on May 31, 2019. Mr Amangbo leaves the bank at the end of a very successful career spanning over 27 years, with the last five years as GMD/CEO.
Mr. Ebenezer Onyeagwu is a vastly experienced banker and financial expert, trained in reputable institutions of learning in Nigeria, the United Kingdom and United States of America.

Mr. Onyeagwu is a graduate of Accounting from Auchi Polytechnic where he obtained the Ordinary National diploma in 1984 and Higher National Diploma in 1987. He 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, Mr. Onyeagwu has oversight over 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.

Mr. Onyeagwu 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.

The Agbor, Delta State born banker brings to his job strategic thinking, inspirational leadership, energetic and entrepreneurial skills. He is married with children.

The highly successful bank was founded by Jim Ovia, a Nigerian businessman
who also founded Visafone Communications Limited that had over 3 million subscribers before it was absorbed by the MTN Group, Nigeria’s biggest GSM mobile telecommunications firm.

68 year old Delta born Jim Ovia got his education at Southern University Louisiana and North East University Louisiana, University. He also went on to attend Harvard Business School where he attended the Executive Management Program. From Southern University Louisiana he got a B. Sc in Business Administration and from North East University Louisiana he obtained a Masters Degree in Business Administration in 1977.

He saw the lethargy and inertia in most of Nigeria’s traditional banks that where mostly analogue and therefore introduced the zest of digital banking in the largely traditional institution to drive growth, but not without hiccups, types that were non existent in America, where he largely trained.

“When we started Zenith in 1990, it was extremely difficult as the necessary resources and infrastructure to do business, particularly banking, were not in place. There were no ATMs, no mobile phones and ICT was a rarely known concept in the business space”, according to Jim Ovia.

But he had gained some knowledge and expertise in Information Technology when he worked at Baton Rouge Bank and Trust Company as a part-time computer operator.

Ovia was the CEO of Zenith bank from 1990 when he founded it, until 2010 when he retired and conferred the title of chairman to someone else. He initiated a lot of significant innovations to the Nigerian banking sector with his knowledge and experience. Under his tutelage Zenith bank was set up to become one of the largest and most profitable banks in Africa. Zenith bank expanded over the years and established operations in countries outside Nigeria, countries like- Sierra Leona, Ghana, South Africa, the Gambia and the United Kingdom.

Zenith bank became The Most Respected Bank in Nigeria by PricewaterhouseCoopers in 2005
Bank of the Year by The Banker Magazine in 2005
It was named the most security friendly and conscious bank in Nigeria for 2005.
It was ranked the Fourth biggest bank in Nigeria by the Central Bank of Nigeria in 2005.
The bank was awarded the African Bank of the Year in 2007 by African Investor Magazine.
The bank was named Quoted Company of the Year by the Nigerian Stock Exchange in 2007.
Socially Responsible Bank of the Year awarded by African Banker Magazine.
The bank also won the Web-Jurist award conducted by the website rating arm of Phillips Consulting.

With core values of Innovation,
Integrity, Professionalism, Corporate Governance, Loyalty and Excellent Service, deploying People, Technology and Service, Zenith Bank Plc has raised a formidable core of trained bankers, leveraging on its visibility and worth, to groom leaders, such that in 2014,
it’s GMD/CEO, Godwin Emefiele emerged as the Central Bank of Nigeria governor, the first from a new generation bank.

Greg Abolo

Blogger at The Oasis Reporters.

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