As Ebenezer Onyeagwu Steers Zenith Bank to Triple-digit Growth

As Ebenezer Onyeagwu Steers Zenith Bank to Triple-digit Growth

Donatus Eleko

Zenith Bank Plc recently announced its unaudited results for the third quarter (Q3) ended September 30, 2023, recording a remarkable triple-digit growth of 114 per cent from N620.6 billion reported in Q3 2022 to N1.33 trillion in Q3 2023. The performance demonstrated the Group’s resilience and strong market share despite a very challenging macroeconomic environment. It also reflected the leadership direction Zenith Bank has been enjoying under its Chief Executive Officer/Managing Director, Ebenezer Onyeagwu.

According to the bank’s unaudited Q3 financial results presented to the Nigerian Exchange (NGX), the triple-digit growth in the top-line also enhanced the bottom line, as the Group recorded a 149 per cent year-on-year (YoY) increase in profit before tax, growing from N202.5 billion in Q3 2022 to N505 billion in Q3 2023.

Under Onyeagwu, Zenith Bank’s profit after tax also grew remarkably by 149 per cent from N174.3 billion to N434.2 billion in the same period. The growth in the top-line arose from both interest income and non-interest income. Interest income grew in the current period by 72 per cent to N670.9 billion from N390.8 billion in Q3 2022, while non-interest income grew by 186 per cent, from N212 billion to N607.2 billion. The growth in profit was similarly attributable to the twin effects of the improvement in interest and non-interest income. Interest income increased because of the growth in risk assets as well as the effective pricing thereon.

In addition, Zenith Bank’s non-interest income growth was largely driven by the revaluation gain due to the unification of exchange rates during the year.

The cost-to-income ratio reduced from 55.8 per cent in Q3 2022 to 37.8 per cent in the current period.  Zenith Bank’s impairment levels increased due to the deliberate incremental provisions necessitated by the conservative approach towards the heightened risk environment and the creation of a counter-cyclical buffer needed to deal with any impending volatility of exchange rates. This caused the cost of risk to deteriorate from 1.3 per cent in Q3 2022, to 5.5 per cent in Q3 2023. However, this was an improvement from Q2 2023 where cost of risk printed at 8.8 per cent because of prudent management of risk assets.

Furthermore, the results showed that Zenith Bank’s total assets grew by 48 per cent from N12.3 trillion to N18.2 trillion in the period ended September 30, 2023, mainly driven by growth in customers’ deposits. Also, customers’ deposits grew by 49 per cent from N8.98 trillion in December 2022, to N13.38 trillion in September 2023.  The growth in customers’ deposits cuts across both corporate and retail segments with the savings portfolio (all currencies) growing from N2.7 trillion in December 2022, to N4.6 trillion in September 2023.

Gross loans increased by 48 per cent from N4.1 trillion in December 2022, to N6.1 trillion in September 2023, due to the revaluation of foreign currency denominated loans as well as the growth in local currency loans to strategic and thriving sectors of the economy. The non-performing loan ratio improved to 3.8 per cent in the period ended 30 September 2023, which was well below prudential limits. Net interest margin (NIM) printed at 5.6 per cent, from the 6.2 per cent reported in September 2022, due to low yield in government securities.  Capital adequacy ratio improved marginally to 20.1 per cent, from 19.8 per cent while liquidity ratio declined from 75 per cent to 68 per cent.

However, all of the bank’s prudential ratios remained above regulatory thresholds.

The Group is optimistic of finishing the year 2023 strong, with focus on sustainable quick wins that would boost growth across all business segments and enhance stakeholder value.

Zenith Bank’s track record of excellent performance has continued to earn the brand numerous awards. Onyeagwu, as a transformational leader, is committed to Zenith Bank’s vision that promotes re-engineering and innovation.

Since assuming the Zenith Bank’s mantle of leader on June 1, 2019, Onyeagwu’s myriad exploits have solidified his sterling leadership qualities.

Onyeagwu is an alumnus of Auchi Polytechnic, the University of Oxford, England and Salford Business School, University of Salford, Manchester, United Kingdom, Delta State University, Abraka.

Also, he is an alumnus of Wharton Business School of the University of Pennsylvania, Columbia Business School of Columbia University, and the Harvard Business School of Harvard University in the United States.

Onyeagwu has an unquenchable taste for success and this reflects on the overall performance of the financial institution he leads as well as the level of human capital at the bank.

Presently, Onyeagwu is the Chairman of the Body of Banks’ Chief Executive Officers, Nigeria and Chairman of Zenith Pensions Custodian Limited and Zenith Nominees Limited. He is also on the Board of Zenith Bank (UK) Limited, FMDQ Holdings Plc and Lagos State Security Trust Fund (LSSTF).

He is a member of the International Monetary Conference (IMC), the Wall Street Journal CEO Council, member of the African Trade Gateway Advisory Council of the Africa Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank), and member of the Governing Council of the Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria (CIBN).

He also served on the board of Zenith Bank Ghana Limited, Zenith General Insurance, Zenith Securities Limited, Zenith Assets Management Company, Zenith Medicare Limited, and Africa Finance Corporation (AFC).It is expected that with his inspirational leadership, Zenith Bank will continue to maintain its industry leadership position and continuously meet the expectations of its stakeholders and customers.

Indeed, Onyeagwu is unassuming and committed to his job.

Under him, today’s 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 Zenith Bank under Onyeagwu 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.

Onyeagwu’s outstanding career has led to him 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.

In July this year,  it was double honours for Zenith Bank at the London Stock Exchange as the bank was named the Best Commercial Bank in Nigeria for the third year running and Best Corporate Governance Bank, Nigeria, for a second consecutive year at the World Finance Awards 2023.

These awards were presented to Onyeagwu, at the London Stock Exchange recently. The recognitions celebrated the bank’s tremendous feats and milestones in financial performance, financial inclusion, corporate governance, and sustainability.

Commenting on the awards, Onyeagwu had said that: “these awards are a testament to our resilience and ability to adapt to the vagaries of the market as well as our innate capability to engender very stellar business performances through our innovative products and solutions. It also affirms our continued commitment to global best practices in corporate governance, sustainability and corporate social responsibility.”

Onyeagwu dedicated the awards to the Founder and Group Chairman, Jim Ovia, CFR, thanking him for his mentorship and for establishing the basis for a resilient and highly successful institution. He also expressed gratitude to the board for their exceptional leadership, vision, and insight; to the staff for their unwavering commitment and dedication; and to the bank’s customers for making Zenith their preferred bank.

Also, 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, 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.”

From the impressive performance recorded in the first nine months of 2023, investors in Zenith Bank as well as other stakeholders in the financial institution should be expecting bountiful dividends and rewards at the end of this financial year, in line with the tradition of the bank.

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