Who Owns Zenith Bank Nigeria?

Zenith Bank is one of the largest financial service provider in Nigeria. Established in May 1990, the commercial bank centres on retail banking, corporate banking, investment, financing and life insurance. The top licensed bank was ranked the Number One Bank in Nigeria by Tier-1 Capital in the 2020 Top 1000 World Banks Ranking published by The Banker Magazine.

Who owns Zenith Bank?

Jim Ovia is the founder and pioneer Group Managing Director / CEO of Zenith Bank Plc, Nigeria’s largest and Africa’s 6th largest bank by Shareholders’ Funds. He was at the helm of affairs from inception for 20 years until his resignation in July, 2010. He was reappointed the Chairman of the bank in 2014. Jim Ovia has made an indelible mark in the banking and IT secctor.

Early life and background of Jim Ovia

Jim Ovia born on the 4th of November, 1951 to a large family in Agbor, Delta State. He is the second son of Obi Olihe of Agbor-Obi, one of the most revered chiefs in Agbor Kingdom, Delta State. For his elementary education, he attended Ika Grammar School, Bojiboji-Owa before relocating abroad for his tertiary education. He obtained a degree in Business Administration from Southern University, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, U.S.A in 1977 and Master’s degree in Business Administration from University of Louisiana, Monroe, Louisiana, USA in 1979. Jim Ovia is also an alumnus of Harvard Business School (OPM).

Jim Ovia

His Career

On completion of his secondary education, he worked as a clerical officer at Ikeja branch of Barclays Bank for several years before moving to the United States of America (USA). Along his career path, he made a brief stint in Computer Science and information technology. This saw him working as a part- time computer operator at the defunct Baton Rouge Bank and Trust Company. For his National Youth Service Corp (NYSC), he worked with Union Bank. Jim Ovia also worked with Lion Bank and rose to the post of a branch manager in Lagos. He later joined International Merchant Bank (IMB) in 1980 and was promoted from the position of financial analyst to bank manager.

He fiercely climbed the corporate ladder by moving to Merchant Bank of Africa. Following the deregulation of the banking sector in the late 1980s, Jim Ovia alongside some investors established Zenith Bank in 1990. He held the reins of the bank for 20 years until until his resignation in July 2010. His stellar performance at his position saw him getting reappointed in 2014.

Under his leadership, the bank grew to become one of the largest financial organization and most profitable banks in Nigeria and Anglophone West Africa. Headquartered in Lagos with over 500 branches across the country, Zenith Bank transformed from small commercial bank into a financial service conglomerate. All thanks to his leadership and entrepreneurial skills.

His Entrepreneurial Exploits

The financial guru launched an IT firm, Cyberspace Network Limited in 1995. As one of the pioneers of internet services in Nigeria, Cyberspace Network Limited provides software services and network services including 4G LTE, CYBER MAX and METRONET. In 2007, he founded Communications Limited, a Nigerian wireless network provider. In 2015, the company was acquired by MTN, a leading telecommunications company in Africa. Prior acquisition, Visafone had over 3million subscribers.

The CEO also doubles as a writer and motivational speaker. He published his first book, ‘Africa Rise and Shine’ in September 2018. Africa Rise and Shine, a memoir focuses on his business secrets and how he was able to create one of Africa’s largest banks. The billionaire is the chairman of both the Nigerian Software Development Initiative (NSDI) and the National Information Technology Advisory Council (NITAC). He is a member of the Honorary International Investor Council as well as the Digital Bridge Institute (DBI).

jim ovia
Jim ovia and his wife on his book launch


Apart from being an astute businessman, Jim Ovia is also a humanitarian. He established Jim Ovia Foundation, a non-profit organisation in 1998. The foundation is aimed at investing in the Nigerian youth’s unlimited and untapped potential. The foundation comprises of four arms; The James Hope College, Jim Ovia Scholarship, Jim Ovia ICT Entrepreneurs Programme and Empower YOUth Program. Over 5000 people have benefited from this scheme. His philanthropic acts has seen him serving as the first President of the Nigeria Internet Group (2001-2003) and other Non-governmental Organization (NGO). He is the initiator of Mankind United to Support Total Education (MUSTE), a philanthropic organization aimed at providing scholarships for the underprivileged.

Jim Ovia’s Relationship and Family Life

Jim Ovia is married to Kay Ovia, Chief Executive Officer of Quantum Markets Ltd and initiator of Star Rising Talent Hunt for children and young adults. They are blessed with wonderful children.

jim Ovia

Awards and Recognition

The skilled banker in the course of his career has clinched several awards and recognition.

Professional Leadership Award at Zik Awards (1999)

Vanguard’s 20 Most Outstanding CEO’s in Corporate Nigeria (2002)

Honorary Doctorate in Finance by Lagos State University (2005)

CEO of the Year at This Day Award of Excellence (2008)

Commander of Order of the Federal Republic of Nigeria ( 2011)

Lifetime Achievement Award at Africans Banker Awards (2015)

Forbes’ Africa’s 50 Richest (2015)

Africa’s Business Leader at Africa American Institute Awards (2017)

Jim Ovia’s Net Worth

Besides being a shareholder in Zenith Bank, Jim Ovia is also one of Nigeria’s largest property owners. He featured in Forbes’ ranking of Africa’s 50 Richest in 2015. He is ranked one of Africa’s richest with a net worth of $980 million dollars.

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