COMFORT EKELEME, Asst Business Editor
The assumption of office of Mr. Ebenezer Onyeagwu as the Group Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of Zenith Bank Plc, one year ago brought high expectations and has greatly contributed to the significant achievements recorded by the bank so far.
It is not out of place to assess the performances of any leader at the end of one year in office especially a leading financial institution. To some, the performances may be on the negative, while others on the positive. But for Mr. Onyeagwu, the story has remained on the positive as owners of the bank have continued to applaud the topmost banker, describing him as an exemplary leader who has the interest of both the staff and shareholders very dear to his heart as the bank continues to make waves in the financial sector of Nigeria.
Thirty years ago, when the founding fathers of Zenith Bank were visualizing the vision/mission for the institution, one the aims upper most in their mind was that of longevity which led to several earlier decisions and policies on vision, mission, focus, goals, the technology to be deployed and quality staff to be employed with clearly defined succession plans for the future.
Onyeagwu, who formally assumed office as the Group Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of Zenith Bank on June 1, 2019, was among those groomed in the bank. Having been appointed by the Board of Directors and subject to the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) approval, he replaced Mr. Peter Amangbo, whose tenure expired on May 31, 2019.
To keen industry watchers, Zenith Bank is currently in safe hands, with the present management led by Mr. Onyeagwu, because his appointment was consistent with the bank’s tradition and succession strategy of grooming leaders from within.
Having known the growth plan of the bank, his one year in office has seen Zenith Bank achieve significant feats in several areas, a development that has ranked the bank among the best not only in Nigeria but in Africa.
In recognition of its track record of excellent performance, Zenith Bank was voted as the Best Commercial Bank in Nigeria 2019 by the World Finance and the Best Digital Bank in Nigeria 2019 by Agusto & Co, a development industry watchers attributed to the commitment of the management of the bank.
The Bank was also recognized as Bank of the Year and Best Bank in Retail Banking at the 2019 BusinessDay Banks and Other Financial Institutions (BOFI) Awards. Most recently, the Bank emerged as the Most Valuable Banking Brand in Nigeria, for the third consecutive year, in the recently released Banker Magazine “Top 500 Banking Brands 2020”, the Best Bank in Nigeria 2020 in the Global Finance World’s Best Banks Awards 2020, and the Bank of the Decade (People’s Choice) at the Thisday Awards 2020.
Some shareholders are of the view that it is the likes of Onyeagwu that should be appointed to manage Nigerian banks for better returns on investment to support and accelerate socio- economic growth.
At the 29th Annual General Meeting (AGM) of the bank held at the Shehu Musa Yar’Adua Centre, Abuja, recently,shareholders unanimously approved the proposed final dividend of N2.50 per share, bringing the total dividend payment for the 2019 financial year to N2.80 per share with a total value of N87.9 billion.
Shareholders of the bank who spoke to Daily Champion on the performance of the bank’s boss in the last one year in office described him as a go-getter, adding that he has done very well in ensuring that the institution remains rock solid while shareholders get better returns on investment.
However, they appreciated the dividend payout at the end of the 2019 financial year, which the shareholders maintained surpassed those paid before Mr. Onyeagwu emerged the GMD of the bank.
In 2020, the Group remains strategically positioned to capture the opportunities in the corporate and retail segments, while efficiently managing costs and expanding further its retail franchise employing digital assets and market as it secured increased customer deposits across the corporate and retail space as deposits grew by 15 per cent to close at N4.26 trillion.
In a telephone interview with Daily Champion, National Coordinator, Progressive Shareholders Association (PSAN) Boniface Okezie, was of the view that Onyeagwu has justified the trust and confidence reposed on him by the board, through the way and manner he has piloted the affairs of the bank so far, in terms of posting strong balance sheets.
He said, no staff has lost their jobs rather he has made sure there is increase in workforce where there is need for that.
According to him:“So far shareholders have gotten higher dividend yields, branch networks have been running smoothly ,technology deplored to branches are doing well in utmost performance in services delivery to the satisfaction of the customers of which I am one. I have visited some of the branches both within and outside Lagos.
“In total submission, the bank is in good hand with Ebenezer Onyeagwu and members of managements are doing excellently well in repositioning the bank to highest level. I urge him not to relent because much is expected of him from the board, shareholders as well as the customers and the entire work force.
“The Ebenezar I know is an easy going person, at the same time a goal getter and with this focus and simplicity in him, I think is a major drive for him to have achieved so much in less than one year in office as GMD/CEO. One of the achievements is dividend payment for this year, which surpassed those paid before him, even the increase in turn over for the year in review as well customers deposit are milestones.
“Total asset of the bank runs into trillions of Naira and that is resilient and strength of Zenith Bank Plc,” he said.
Another Shareholder Activist & Cofounder of Noble Shareholders Solidarity Association (NSSA), Alhaji Gbadebo Olatokunbo noted that Onyeagwu has performed well despite the present economic situation of the country.
“When Mr. Jim Ovia (current chairman of the board) was heading the bank, he was also absorbing the best amongst the very best into the bank while serious engagements on what the bank stood for were injected into those recruited.
“You can get closer to the leadership position only if you’re one of the disciples of the Code of Conduct of “The Great Zenith Bank Orders” and you have proven your competency at the ladder bottom in order to be given the consent to climb the ladder of progress for you to lead the bank.
“When you then look at the progression of the bank since inception, you will agree with me that the policies are professionally progressing from the first MD to the current one, because the roadmap had been in place and must be followed with needed proactive amendments to achieve the desired results. It is in the system of the bank to make progress and year in and out it will remain focused and achieve results. These were the facts behind the figures.
“Therefore, Ebenezer Onyeagwu couldn’t, but to outperformed his predecessors, despite the extremely harsh economic conditions which obtained now and the records are there to back the statement,” he said
Prior to his appointment exactly a year ago, Mr Onyeagwu has been the Deputy Managing Director of the Bank since October 28, 2016 and has close to thirty years cognate banking experience of which seventeen years have been with Zenith Bank.
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, and the Harvard Business School of Harvard University, all in the United States of America, as well as Lagos Business School of the Pan Africa University, Nigeria.
Mr. Onyeagwu is a graduate of Accounting from the reputable Auchi Polytechnic and a Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (FCA).
According to the audited financial results for the 2019 financial year, Zenith Bank recorded profit before tax, PBT, N243.3billion, indicating a 5.0 percent increase when compared to N231.7billion in financial year 2018. Profit after tax (PAT) rose to N208.8 billion, an increase of 7.9 per cent from the N193 billion recorded in the previous year, thus achieving the feat as the first Nigerian Bank to cross the N200 billion mark.
The Group also recorded a growth in gross earnings of 5 per cent rising to N662.3 billion from N630.3 billion reported in the previous year. This growth was driven by the 29 per cent increase in non-interest income from N179.9 billion in 2018 to N231.1 billion in 2019.
Fees on electronic products continued to grow significantly with a 108per cent Year on Year (YoY) growth from N20.4 billion in 2018 to N42.5 billion in the period under review which is a validation of the bank’s retail transformation strategy which continues to deliver impressive results.
Total assets also increased by 7per cent from N5.96 trillion to N6.35 trillion. The Group created new viable risk assets as gross loans grew by 22per cent from N2.016 billion to N2.462 billion. This was executed prudently at a low cost of risk of 1.1per cent and a significant reduction in the non-performing loan ratio from 4.98per innovation.
Consistent with this superlative performance and in recognition of its track record of excellent performance, Zenith Bank was voted as the Best Commercial Bank in Nigeria 2019 by the World Finance and the Most Valuable Banking Brand in Nigeria 2019 by The Banker. The Bank GMD was also voted Champion Newspapers 2019 Bank CEO of the Year thus making the last year in the saddle very memorable for Mr. Onyeagwu.
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