Jim Ovia Proffers Ways to Build Sustainable Brands

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Jim Ovia

By Obinna Chima

The Founder/Chairman of Zenith Bank Plc, Mr. Jim Ovia, has stressed the need for organisations to be creative, embrace innovation and integrity as well as superior service offerings in order to build sustainable brands.

Ovia said at a knowledge-sharing webinar organised by the Nigerian-British Chamber of Commerce (NBCC) with the theme: “Building a Brand,” yesterday that human capital also played a vital role in developing a global brand.

He listed leading brands such as Amazon, MTN, Dangote, Glo, among brands in the world and Africa that have remained innovative.

According to Ovia, the organisations are regarded as the best brands because they offer quality services and they can be trusted.

“These brands have integrity and reputation. Branding goes with success and the successful stories of various products and services and innovation are what makes you develop some of the best brands you can think of. With the COVID-19, different countries are trying to develop innovative ways to survive.

“It is no longer the survival of the fittest in terms of strength and energy, but what is required in this world of COVID-19 is more of survival of the most creative and the most adaptable. So, you must adapt to the situation you find yourself. Yes, the successful ones, their brands would be recognised,” he stated.

Responding to a question on how his personal philosophy has impacted on the Zenith Bank brand, the founder of one Nigeria’s leading financial institution said Zenith Bank was a vision created 30 years ago.

According to him, at that time “we all recall that Nigerians were very doubtful as to whether young boys of our age (we were all in our 30s), if we could really be trusted with depositors’ money and whether we would just wear blue jeans and vanish from the country.

“But we were determined to prove members of the public wrong. We were determined to make a change. If you recall, it was during the military era. I do know a number of persons who were CEOs of banks at that time that were arrested, tried and jailed because they lost all their depositors’ money.

“The history books are there of the number of banks that were affected. So, we were terrified and for that reason, we needed to be very careful and we needed to display a great deal of honesty and integrity to continue to do well.

“That was the vision and that was the focus. And in those days, if there are letters from the government or the regulators, you just have to stop what you are doing and read those letters three times, to be sure you knew what they wanted you to do. Otherwise, if you ignore what the letter says, it might render the project you are running useless. So, that was the era we came into banking and those were the situations we met. It was very scary.”

He also emphasised the importance of succession planning in building a sustainable brand.

“So far, we have done it three times now and remarkably so well. Many assume I am still there, but the last time I ever visited the office was about 10 years ago, when I retired. Succeeding CEOs have always continued to run the institution even better than the way I did when I was a CEO. Definitely, the brand would continue to be maintained, whether I am there or not,” he added.

Ovia said he did not see fintechs as being destructive to the banking sector.