Sunday, 14 June 2020


Dr. Jim Ovia, Chairman, Zenith Bank Plc
Dr. Jim Ovia is a Nigerian businessman, motivational speaker and writer. He is the Chairman and pioneer CEO of Zenith Bank Plc, Nigeria’s largest and Africa’s 6th largest bank by Shareholders’ Funds. He is a versatile businessman who is not just making waves in one sector of the economy. We can feel his impact in the IT sector in Nigeria.

Dr. Jim Ovia was born on the 4th of November, 1957 to a large family in Agbor, Delta State. He is the second son of Obi Olihe of Agbor-Obi, one of the most revered chiefs in Agbor Kingdom, Delta State.

Dr. Ovia attended Ika Grammar School, Bojiboji-Owa for his secondary education before going to oversee for his tertiary education. He has a B.Sc. degree in Business Administration from Southern University, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, U.S.A in 1977 and Master’s degree in Business Administration from University of Louisiana, Monroe, Louisiana, USA in 1979. Jim Ovia is an alumnus of Harvard Business School. He is married to Kay Ovia, Chief Executive Officer of Quantum Markets Ltd and initiator of Star Rising Talent Hunt for children and young adults.

Early Career
While growing up, young Dr. Jim Ovia always pondered about the career path to choose and was encouraged by his uncle to study business administration. Heeding to his uncle advice and hard work made him what he is today. Ovia started out as a clerk at Union Bank, formerly Barclays Bank in 1973. This was shortly after he finished his secondary school. He worked for 3 years as a bank clerk before moving to USA where he obtained his Bachelor’s and Master’s degree. Along the line, he developed a keen interest in computer science and information technology. He worked as part- time computer operator at the defunct Baton Rouge Bank and Trust Company.

After graduating, he joined Union Bank to complete his National Youth Service Corps (NYSC). He also worked in Lion Bank where he rose to the post of branch manager in Lagos. Soon after, Jim Ovia joined International Merchant Bank (IMB) in 1980 and was promoted from the position of financial analyst to bank manager. From IMB, he moved to Merchant Bank of Africa where he set up a thriving corporate division. Talk about fiercely climbing the corporate ladder! Needless to say that the sky became his starting point from then onward.

Zenith Bank PLC And Jim Ovia Entrepreneurial Journey
Following the deregulation of banking sector during Babangida’s administration in the late 1980’s, Jim Ovia alongside some investors started Zenith Bank in 1990. He was at the helm of affairs of the bank for 20 years until his resignation in July 2010. He was reappointed the chairman of the bank in 2014.

Under his leadership, Zenith Bank grew and is recognised as the largest financial service provider in Nigeria and Anglophone West Africa. The bank offers a range of corporate investment, business and personal banking products and solutions. Its headquarter is in Victoria Island, Lagos and has over 500 branches and offices across the country.

Zenith Bank became a Public Limited Company in 2001 and was listed on the Nigeria Stock Exchange (NSE) as well as the London Stock Exchange (LSE). On 27th of April 2007, Zenith Bank PLC became the first Nigerian bank in 25 years to be licensed by the UK Financial Services Authority (FSA), giving rise to Zenith Bank UK Limited. The bank also has subsidiaries in Ghana, Sierra Leone, Gambia, South Africa and China.

Dr. Jim Ovia had transformed Zenith Bank, a small commercial bank into a financial service conglomerate. He has built an iconic corporate identity for the bank leveraging technology and reliable customer services.

Other Interest of Jim Ovia
Asides banking, Dr. Jim Ovia also has an interest in technology. He founded Cyberspace Network Limited in 1995. Cyberspace Network Limited was one of the pioneers of internet services in Nigeria. The company provides software services and network services including 4G LTE, CYBER MAX, METRONET. He also founded Visafone Communications Limited, a Nigerian wireless network provider in 2007. The company was later acquired by MTN, a leading telecommunications company in Africa in 2015. Before the acquisition, Visafone had more than 3million subscribers.

Dr. Ovia is also a writer and motivational speaker. In September 2018, he published his first book, ‘Africa Rise and Shine’. Africa Rise And Shine is Jim Ovia’s memoir. He bared it all in Africa Rise And Shine his business success secrets and how he was able to create one of Africa’s largest banks. The book was published in US by Forbes Books in South California.

Jim Ovia recognised the role sound education played in his life success which is why he established Jim Ovia Foundation in 1998, a non-profit organisation in Nigeria. The aim of Jim Ovia Foundation is to invest in the Nigerian youth’s unlimited and untapped potential as the key to socio-economic growth. He believes investing in the youths will enhance the standard of living of the society and improve the Nigerian economy.

Dr. Jim Ovia Foundation has four arms; The James Hope College, Jim Ovia Scholarship, Jim Ovia ICT Entrepreneurs Programme and Empower YOUth Program. Over 1,500 students have been provided with university scholarships, more than 3,500 youth has been empowered since 2002. Also, over 500 entrepreneurs have been empowered with ICT skills.

Appointments and Boards Where Jim Ovia Serves
Four years after Jim resigned as CEO of Zenith Bank PLC, he was appointed as the Chairman, Boards of Directors and non-executive Director in June 2014. Jim Ovia also chairs a number of boards including Nigerian Software Development Initiative (NSDI), National Information Technology Advisory Council (NITAC) and Quantum Markets Limited and Cyberspace Network Limited.

He is a member of the Governing Council of Lagos State University, Digital Bridge Institute (DBI) and National Economic Management Team of Nigeria. Jim Ovia is also a member of Honorary International Investor Council and Board of Trustees, Redeemer’s University for Nations, Lagos.

Recognition and Awards
Professional Leadership Award at Zik Awards                                                                                                 1999
Vanguard’s 20 Most Outstanding CEO’s in Corporate Nigeria                                                                     2002
Honorary Doctorate in Finance by Lagos State University                                                                           2005
CEO of the Year at ThisDay Award of Excellence                                                                                            2008
Commander of Order of the Federal Republic of Nigeria                                                                              2011
Lifetime Achievement Award at Africans Banker Awards                                                                             2015
Forbes’ Africa’s 50 Richest                                                                                                                                   2015
Africa’s Business Leader at Africa American Institute Awards                                                                    2017

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