BY EMEKA EJERE
Exactly one year ago, Ebenezer Onyeagwu, stepped up to the peak of his banking career, assuming the mantle of leadership of Zenith Bank Plc. as the Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer.
There could not have been a better person for the top job than a vastly experienced chartered accountant, knowledgeable and astute financial expert who has over 29 years of experience in the banking industry in Nigeria, out of which he has spent 17 in Zenith Bank.
It is even more so with his specialised training from reputable institutions of learning in Nigeria, the United Kingdom and the United States of America, after studying Accounting at the Auchi Polytechnic, Edo State.
Before his appointment, Onyeagwu had been the bank’s Deputy Managing Director since October 2016. He began his banking career at the defunct Financial Merchant Bank in 1991 and later held several management positions in the erstwhile Citizens International Bank Limited until 2002.
He then joined Zenith Bank Plc in 2002 as a Senior Manager, in the Internal Control and Audit Group of the bank. His professionalism, competence, integrity and commitment to the objectives of the bank saw him rise swiftly between 2003 and 2005, first, as Assistant General Manager, then Deputy General Manager, and eventually, General Manager of the bank.
Onyeagwu was appointed Executive Director of the bank in 2013, in charge of Lagos and South-South zones as well as strategic groups/business units of the bank, including Financial Control & Strategic Planning, Treasury and Correspondent Groups, Human Resources Group, Oil and Gas Group, and Credit Risk Management Group among others.
He was named Deputy Managing Director of the bank in 2016. In that capacity, he deputized for the Group Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of the bank. He also had direct oversight of the bank’s Financial Control and Strategic Planning, Risk Management, Retail Banking, Institutional and Corporate banking business portfolios, IT Group, Credit Administration, Treasury and Foreign Exchange Trading.
He was appointed Group Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of the bank on June 1, 2019, to replace Mr Peter Amangbo, whose tenure expired on Friday, May 31.
“The appointment is consistent with the bank’s tradition and succession strategy of grooming leaders from within,” the bank had said.
Onyeagwu is an alumnus of University of Oxford, England, from where he obtained a Postgraduate Diploma in Financial Strategy and a certificate in Macroeconomics. He also undertook executive-level business education in Wharton Business School of the University of Pennsylvania, Columbia Business School of Columbia University, the Harvard Business School of Harvard University and Lagos Business School of the Pan African University, Nigeria.
There is no doubt that he has brought his wealth of experience to bear in piloting the affairs of the bank evidently on the path of prosperity. In the first quarter of 2020 ended March 31, the bank defied a challenging domestic operating macroeconomic environment and global headwinds to see its gross earnings rose by six per cent to N166.8 billion, up from the N158.1 billion recorded in March 2019.
According to the unaudited statement of account presented to the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE), the group’s top-line growth was driven by the 43 per cent expansion in non-interest income from N32.7 billion in the prior period to N46.6 billion in March 2020.
Its non-interest income growth was driven by a 98 per cent surge in trading income from N7.8 billion in March 2019, to N15.5 billion in the quarter under review. Profit before tax also improved by three per cent from N57.3 billion in Q1 2019 to N58.8 billion in Q1 2020.
Recently, the bank emerged as the ‘Most Valuable Banking Brand in Nigeria,’ for the third consecutive year, in the Banker Magazine “Top 500 Banking Brands 2020”, Best Bank in Nigeria 2020 in the Global Finance World’s Best Banks Awards 2020, and Bank of the Decade (People’s Choice) at the THISDAY Awards 2020.