As Onyeagwu Moves to Strengthen Zenith Bank International Operation

Donatus Eleko

Zenith Bank Plc under the leader of its Group Managing Director, Mr. Ebenezer Onyeagwu, recently signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the French government to establish a subsidiary of the bank in France.

Already, Zenith Bank has subsidiaries in Ghana, Zenith Bank (Ghana) Limited; Sierra Leone, Zenith Bank (Sierra Leone) Limited; The Gambia, Zenith Bank (Gambia) Limited. The Bank also has a Representative Office in The People’s Republic of China.

Clearly, with the increasing financial services opportunities in the international market as well as the need for Zenith Bank to further diversify its earnings, the decision by the bank to set up a subsidiary in France has been commended.

Analysts believe that driven by the vison of Onyeagwu, the move would also enhance Zenith Bank’s brand recognition as well as offer the bank direct access to new markets.

The MoU, which was signed by the Founder and Chairman of Zenith Bank Plc, Jim Ovia, CFR, and the French Minister for Trade, Attractiveness and French Nationals Abroad, Mr. Olivier Becht, would enable Zenith Bank, through its wholly owned subsidiary, Zenith Bank (UK) Limited, seek and secure the requisite regulatory approval from the Autorite’ de Controle Prudentiel et de Resolution (ACPR) to establish a strategic presence in France.

Speaking during the signing ceremony, Ovia said, “It gives me great pleasure to welcome you to Nigeria and Zenith Bank. I am indeed very delighted about the signing of this MoU with France.

“For me, it is an honour to do this on behalf of the bank, and we look forward to securing the licence and starting operations in early 2024.”

He thanked the French Ambassador to Nigeria, Emmanuelle Blatmann and her colleagues at the French Embassy in Nigeria for their efforts towards improving French-Nigerian business relations.

Also speaking during the ceremony, the French Minister for Trade, Attractiveness and French Nationals Abroad, Mr. Olivier Becht, said: “I want to thank you very much for your decision to open a branch of Zenith Bank in Paris. We are thrilled to welcome in France Zenith Bank’s first office inside the European Union.

“For us, that’s a very good signal, and it is undoubtedly a demonstration of mutual confidence. No doubt also that your vision on international finance guided you to decide to open this branch and this decision in many respects can also be regarded as a milestone in French-Nigerian economic relations and an illustration of our friendship.”

He noted that the government of President Macron had adopted a pro-business agenda in order to make France more attractive by undertaking several reforms in labour law, simplifying a lot of procedures and cutting business taxes, corporate taxes and production taxes by more than 25 billion Euros, adding that, “we hope that the opening of the branch of Zenith Bank in France will also be an occasion to boost the French-Nigerian business in order to have more French companies investing in Nigeria and also to have more Nigerian companies investing in France.”

Zenith Bank has continued to distinguish itself in the Nigerian financial services industry through superior service offerings, unique customer experience and sound financial indices.

The bank remains a clear leader in the digital space, with several firsts in deploying innovative products and solutions and an assortment of alternative channels that ensure convenience, speed, and safety of transactions.

Zenith Bank blazes the trail in digital banking in Nigeria; scoring several firsts in the deployment of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) infrastructure to create innovative products that meet the needs of its teeming customers. Driven by a culture of excellence and strict adherence to global best practices, the bank has combined 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.

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.

Since assuming the Zenith Bank’s mantle of leader on June 1, 2019, Onyeagwu’s myriad exploits have solidified his sterling leadership qualities. He does not waver. Onyeagwu always wins for the good of humanity, corporate sustainability, and the profitability that ensures prosperity.

Little wonder, he was recently adjudged the ‘Best Banking CEO of the Year in Africa’ in the International Banker 2023 Banking Awards. The award, published in the Spring 2023 Issue of the International Banker Magazine, saw Onyeagwu honoured alongside other individuals and banks from the Middle East and Africa.

Onyeagwu had explained that the award reflected the bank’s position as a leading financial institution in Nigeria and the African continent.

It also attested to Zenith Bank’s commitment to principles of sustainability and high ethical standards, which have become integral to our overall strategy as an institution.”

He had dedicated the award to Ovia, for his guidance and mentorship; the bank’s management team and staff, for being the shoulder upon which his achievements and success as CEO rests; and the bank’s customers for making Zenith Bank their bank of choice.

Onyeagwu is a Fellow (FCA) of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN), a Fellow of the Nigerian Institute of Management (NIM), The Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria (CIBN), the Institute of Credit Administrators (ICA) and Senior Associate Member, Risk Management Institute of Nigeria (RIMAN).

Onyeagwu’s outstanding career had led to him to receiving multiple awards, including Bank CEO of the Year (2019) by Champion Newspaper, Bank CEO of the Year (2020, 2021 & 2022) by BusinessDay Newspaper, CEO of the Year (2020 and 2021) – SERAS Awards, and CEO of the Year (2022) – Leadership Newspaper.

As Group Managing Director/CEO, Onyeagwu has led Zenith Bank to achieve tremendous feats and milestones in financial performance (including 47 per cent growth in the bank’s market capitalisation in four years), financial inclusion, corporate governance and sustainability.

These efforts have culminated in several local and international awards and recognitions including being recognised as Number One Bank in Nigeria by Tier-1 Capital, for the 13th consecutive year, in the 2022 Top 1000 World Banks Ranking published by The Banker Magazine; Bank of the Year (Nigeria) in The Banker’s Bank of the Year Awards 2020 and 2022; Best Bank in Nigeria, for three consecutive years from 2020 to 2022, in the Global Finance World’s Best Banks Awards; Best Commercial Bank, Nigeria 2021 and 2022 in the World Finance Banking Awards; Best Corporate Governance Bank, Nigeria in the World Finance Corporate Governance Awards 2022; ‘Best in Corporate Governance’ Financial Services’ Africa, for four consecutive years from 2020 to 2023, by the Ethical Boardroom; and the Most Responsible Organisation in Africa 2021 by SERAS Awards.

On March 25, 2023, he was conferred with a Doctorate Degree in Business Administration by the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Nigeria’s first indigenous University, in recognition of his immense achievements as Group Managing Director/CEO of Zenith Bank as well as his contributions to the growth of the financial services sector in Nigeria and across the African continent. The award was given during the 50th convocation ceremony of the University.

In his acceptance speech during the award ceremony, Onyeagwu had expressed his gratitude to UNN for finding him a worthy recipient of the honorary doctoral degree in Business Administration of one of the leading universities in Nigeria, considering the rigorous selection process of awardees by the institution.

He said, “For me to have been considered and to have passed through the meticulous selection process makes it more dignifying because I have no connection with the university.”

Therefore, when the new subsidiary to be planted in France becomes operational, it is expected that it would facilitate the financing of trade transactions and investments. It would increase the bank’s customer bank, expand its revenue and further strengthen the Zenith Bank brand.

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