Ebenezer Onyeagwu, CEO, Zenith Bank
By Babajide Komolafe
Zenith Bank Plc emerged as the most capitalised bank on the Nigeria Exchange Limited (NGX), leading the banking sector with market capitalisation of N789.6 billion at the end of 2021.
The above feat was occasioned by rising investors’ confidence in the bank, which also saw the price of the bank’s share gaining one per cent to close 2021 at N25.15 in 2021.
The Zenith Bank’s leadership in the stock market is inspired by the persistent impressive performance of the bank, driven by superior service quality, unique customer experience, and sound financial indices.
This is reflected in the Bank’s unaudited results for the nine months period ended September 30, 2021. According to the results, Zenith Bank posted a profit before tax (PBT) of N180 billion, up by one per cent from the N177 billion recorded in the same period the previous year, amidst a challenging macroeconomic environment exacerbated by the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
According to the group’s unaudited nine months financial results, its gross earnings increased by two per cent from N509 billion to N519 billion, largely due to growth in current account maintenance fees as well as fees from electronic products during the period.
Despite continuing economic uncertainties, the Group, according to a statement, grew its net earnings through reduction in its cost of funds while keeping the cost of risk flat.
This strengthened its earnings per share (EPS) by one per cent to N5.11. The Group achieved a nine per cent growth in interest income from loans and advances on the back of an increase in gross loans of nine per cent year-to-date and enhanced efficiency, resulting in a 21 per cent drop in interest expense to N74 billion from N94 billion.
This culminated in growth in net interest income of four per cent, from the N225 billion recorded at the end of the third quarter of 2020, to N235 billion in the current period. Also, its total assets increased by three per cent to N8.8 trillion in the current period, while total deposits grew by 13 per cent to close at N6 trillion, from N5.3 trillion as at December 31, 2020, with a substantial contribution from retail deposits.
As a result of the bank’s focused drive to increase retail deposits in the past three years, there was a decrease in the Group’s cost of funds by 35 per cent to 1.4 per cent, from 2.2 per cent year-on-year.
The Group continued to make significant progress in its retail banking drive, as evidenced by remarkable growth in transaction volumes and value across its digital platforms and strong growth in customer acquisition.
According to the statement, in the year’s final quarter of 2021, its management’s outlook remained positive, buoyed by a declining inflationary trend, expected increase in foreign exchange inflows, and improving oil production.
“The Group remains focused on increasing its retail market share, consolidating its leadership position in the corporate segment and maintaining a robust balance sheet,” it stated.
In recognition of its track record of excellent performance, Zenith Bank was voted as Best Commercial Bank in Nigeria in the World Finance Banking Awards 2021, 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 2021, and Best in Corporate Governance ‘Financial Services’ Africa 2020 and 2021 by the Ethical Boardroom.
Also, the Group Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Zenith Bank, Mr. Ebenezer Onyeagwu, emerged ‘CEO of the Year’ for a second consecutive year at the Sustainability, Enterprise and Responsibility (SERAS) CSR Africa Awards held in 2021.
According to the judges, Onyeagwu was selected for a number of reasons, including engendering a culture that promotes the continued investment in social initiatives in support of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Under his leadership, the Zenith Bank’s social investments totalled N3.285 billion in 2020, representing nearly two per cent of the bank’s profit after tax. The judges found Onyeagwu worthy for his commitment to promoting sustainability and responsible business practises in Nigeria, through his frontal leadership of sustainability in Zenith Bank, thereby enabling best industry practises in the banking sector. They also chose him for his passion for reducing carbon emissions in the bank’s operations.
Zenith Bank also emerged winner in four other categories at the SERAS CSR Africa Awards, carting home the awards for “Best Company in Reporting and Transparency”, “Best Company in Infrastructure Development”, “Best Company in Gender Equality and Women Empowerment”, and the coveted “Most Responsible Organisation in Africa”.
The bank was adjudged the “Most Responsible Organisation in Africa,” winning the overall best sustainability award, for its continued commitment to the tenets of Sustainability and Corporate Social Responsibility within its immediate community and in the society at large.
In addition, the bank emerged as winner in the category for Reporting and Transparency for its consistency in disclosing and communicating its sustainability journey and progress annually vis-a-vis environmental, social, and governance (ESG) goals, in line with the guidelines and protocols set by the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), Nigeria Sustainable Banking Principles (NSBP), Nigerian Exchange (NGX), United Nations Global Compact (UNGC), and United Nations Environment Programme Finance Initiative (UNEP FI).
The bank also ensures the assurance of its sustainability report by reputable independent third parties.
In 2021, the bank’s 2020 sustainability report was assured by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) and disseminated through the Bank’s website for the public and sent to all relevant stakeholders, including the United Nations Global Compact (UNGC).
In the infrastructure development category, the bank was voted winner for its nation-building initiatives and investments, including supporting efforts towards establishing basic services and functional security, governance, and economic and infrastructure systems, especially in Nigeria.
As a testament to this and in demonstration of its commitment to the development (often referred to as reform, restructuring and rebuilding) of the Nigeria Police Force for the preservation of law and order, protection of life and property, and law enforcement in Nigeria, the bank supported the Lagos State Security Trust Fund with N500, 000,000 for the provision of security-enhancing facilities and infrastructure. This was in addition to contributions to other state security trust funds.
Clearly, for over three decades, Zenith Bank has distinguished itself in the Nigerian financial services industry through superior service offerings, unique customer experience, and sound economic indices.
The bank remains a clear leader in the digital space with several firsts in deploying innovative products, solutions, and an assortment of alternative channels that ensure convenience, speed, and safety of transactions.
Also, in the area of corporate governance which is a vital ingredient in ensuring the sustainability of any institution, Zenith Bank under Onyeagwu has maintained a positive rating as can be seen from the recent assessment by the NGX hence the financial institution’s listing on the Premium Board of the Exchange.
The bank places a premium on its core business strategy anchored on people, technology and service, to create value for its numerous clientele.
With a team of dedicated professionals, the bank leverages its robust Information and Communication Technology (ICT) infrastructure to provide cutting-edge solutions and products through its network of branches and electronic/digital channels.
As a testament to the aforementioned and in recognition of its track record of excellent performance, Zenith Bank had been ranked the number one bank in Nigeria by tier-1 capital in the 2021 Top 1000 World Banks’ Ranking published by The Banker Magazine, a publication of the Financial Times Group of the United Kingdom.
The chief executive officer has continued to assure investors and stakeholders that the commercial bank will continue to accelerate its retail and digital banking initiatives in order to sustain its positive performance.
“We are also up-scaling our investment in terms of what we have, to contend with the ever-increasing risks we see in the environment. That in a nutshell explains the rise in our digital banking initiative,” he added.
Since it commenced business in May 1990, Zenith Bank Plc has built a respectable brand that is recognised globally.
The bank is a leader in the deployment of various channels of banking technology, and the Zenith brand has become synonymous with the deployment of state-of-the-art technologies in banking.
Driven by a culture of excellence and strict adherence to global best practises, Zenith Bank continues to combine vision, skillful banking expertise, and cutting-edge technology to create products and services that anticipate and meet customers’ expectations; enable businesses to thrive and grow wealth for customers.