Jim Ovia is a Nigerian businessman and the founder of Zenith Bank. He is also the founder of Visafone Communications Limited which has over 3 million subscribers. In addition to that, he is the Chairman of the National Software Development Initiative (NSDI) and also the Chairman of , National Information Technology Advisory Council (NITAC). Aide being the chairman of Zenith Bank, he also holds the largest percentage of shares which is 9%. He is also the chairman of Cyberspace Network Limited.
Background and Education
Jim Ovia was born on the 4th of November, 1951 at Agbor, Delta State, Nigeria. He got his education at Southern University Louisiana and North East University Louisiana, University. He also went on to attend Harvard Business School where he attended the Executive Management Program. From Southern University Louisiana he got a B. Sc in Business Administration and from North East University Louisiana he obtained a Masters Degree in Business Administration in 1977. Jim is married to Kay Ovia and together they have children.
Rise to Prominence
Jim Ovia always knew that his place was in the financial sector and hence he wasted no time in going straight to it and working his way up to prominence. He started off his career working for Union Bank (Formerly Barclays Bank) as a banking clerk in 1973. And then he went on to work as a Financial Analyst at the International Merchant Bank under the agreement of First National Bank of Chicago; he had worked his way up to Senior Manager position by 1987. And from 1987 up until 1990 he lead the Corporate Finance Department of Merchant Bank of Africa under the technical supervision of Bank of America.
Jim also gained some knowledge and expertise in Information Technology when he worked at Baton Rouge Bank and Trust Company as a part-time computer operator.
Ovia founded Zenith Bank in 1990 and was the CEO up until 2010 when he retired and conferred the title of chairman to someone else. He initiated a lot of significant innovations to the Nigerian banking sector with his knowledge and experience. Under his tutelage Zenith bank was set up to become one of the largest and most profitable banks in Africa. Zenith bank expanded over the years and established operations in countries outside Nigeria, countries like- Sierra Leona, Ghana, South Africa, the Gambia and the United Kingdom.
He is also the Proprietor of the University of Information and Communication Technology, Delta State.
Jim Ovia is well known for his dedication to philanthropy and to giving back to the society. Some of his organizations include;
He is founder and chairman of Mankind United to Support Total Education (MUSTE) which is a philanthropic organization centered on providing scholarships for the less privileged. Today some of the beneficiaries of those scholarships are acclaimed professionals in many different fields.
He also founded the Youth Empowerment/ICT Foundation which is concerned with inspiring and motivating the Nigerian youth to embrace Information and communication technology to improve their socio-economic welfare.
Jim Ovia has also served in other capacities aside the banking sector; he is a member of the Governing Council of Lagos State University and also a member of the Board of Trustees, Redeemer’s University For Nations, Lagos. He was also formerly a member of the Governing Council of the Nigerian Investment Promotion Commission from 1999 up to 2007. He also served on the board of American International School, Lagos from 2001 to 2003.
Under his leadership Zenith bank bagged quite a number of prestigious awards, some of which includes;
The Most Respected Bank in Nigeria by PricewaterhouseCoopers in 2005
Bank of the Year by The Banker Magazine in 2005
It was named the most security friendly and conscious bank in Nigeria for 2005.
It was ranked the Fourth biggest bank in Nigeria by the Central Bank of Nigeria in 2005.
The bank was awarded the African Bank of the Year in 2007 by African Investor Magazine.
The bank was named Quoted Company of the Year by the Nigerian Stock Exchange in 2007.
Socially Responsible Bank of the Year awarded by African Banker Magazine.
The bank also won the Web-Jurist award conducted by the website rating arm of Phillips Consulting.
Jim Ovia has also received the Nigerian National Honour