Emefiele’s Calm and Steady Leadership Keeps Zenith On Top

As the largest bank in Nigeria and the seventh largest in Africa by Tier-1 Capital, Zenith Bank Plc’s frontline position in the burgeoning banking sector under its current Group Managing Director, Godwin Emefiele, has continued to attract accolades, writes Festus Akanbi
One peculiar feature of the present state of the economy is the changing perception of members of international community on Nigeria’s economic potentials. Today, Nigeria is being widely adjudged the largest investment destination in Africa due to its high return on investment.
However, at the back of this economic revival is the corresponding revolution in the nation’s banking sector.
One of the leading lights of the Nigerian banking sector pushing this revolution is the Group Managing Director/Chief Executive, Zenith Bank Plc, Mr. Godwin Emefiele.
Emefiele, who effectively took over as a substantive managing director of the bank in August 2010, has no doubt, justified the confidence of the bank’s board in him when he was endorsed to take over from the pioneering chief executive, Jim Ovia, following the Central Bank of Nigeria’s directive that banks whose chief executives had served for 10 years and above should draw up a succession plan and leave the banking scene at the end of July 2010.
From all indications, Emefiele, has not only sustained the culture of excellence put in place by his successor, he has also significantly positioned the bank to play a big role in the emerging investment-friendly business environment which has continued to attract foreign investors into the country.
Breaking New Grounds 
He took Zenith Bank to another high last year when he became the first GMD/CEO in the banking industry to achieve N100 billion after tax profit in 2012 financial year. He is an astute manager of people and resources and a corporate governance savvy professional banker who has earned several personal and corporate endorsements and achievements.
Godwin Emefiele is a man who is an expert in forecasting and step-taking, leveraging on his excellent acuity and calculated-risk-taking skills to crystalise any benefit from existing and future opportunities. Zenith, which by balance sheet size and other positive financials, has shaped and is shaping certain critical aspects of developments in the sub-sector, is in sheer entrepreneurial energy and verve – a bank without equal and one which has taken after its lead-manager.
The several achievements of Zenith Bank Plc since he took over stand him out as an accomplished banker and erudite manager of human and material resources. His capacity for leadership and eye for growth opportunities is evident in Zenith’s performance and geometric progression on a number of parameters.
A system’s-person and unassuming achiever, Emefiele knows and understands banking and the unique Nigerian economy like the palms of his hands. He had been part of the core people who built the Zenith culture, and understands the direction of the board and shareholders of the bank viz-a-viz the realities and focus of the larger economy. He knows and understands that the responsibility to deliver is non-negotiable.
Backed by Academic Knowledge
Before he came into banking, he was a university don at the University of Nigeria Nsukka and the University of Port Harcourt, where he lectured in finance, bank management and insurance. He is a banker whose years of experience are backed by sound academic knowledge of the job he is engaged in. He is a dyed-in-the-wool banker, very steadfast at what he does and has remained strong in the Zenith tradition of producing results. And those results have been manifested in the laurels and recognition that the bank has received both locally and internationally.
Harvests of Laurels
Currently, Zenith bank is the largest bank in Nigeria and the seventh largest in Africa by tier-1 capital. Forbes & CNBC Africa ranks Zenith bank as the 3rd biggest company in West Africa. Capital Finance International (CFI) adjudged the bank the ‘Best Commercial Bank in Africa. World Finance voted the bank as the best Nigerian Bank in Corporate Governance in 2013. The corporate governance award is in recognition of the bank’s ability to set an industry-wide example of best practices in corporate governance. The bank was evaluated on a wide range of criteria that included quality of policies and procedures, quality of disclosures, elements of innovation in corporate governance practices and excellence in stakeholder relationship management. In 2013, Zenith Bank was recognised as one the 20 global super brands and KPMG rated the bank as the ‘Best Customer-Focused Bank.
In January 2009, the bank was adjudged to be the ‘Most Customer-focused Bank in Nigeria” according to a survey conducted by KPMG. The survey which focused predominantly on corporate customers of banks, including companies in a variety of sectors found that customers were most satisfied with the services offered by Zenith Bank.
The bank was rated as the “Best Bank in Nigeria in 2012” by BusinessDay Newspapers, following a survey of all the banks in Nigeria. Zenith Bank also won ‘Bank of the Year Nigeria 2013 by The Banker Magazine, a publication of Financial Times of London. Nominees for The Banker award were judged by their ability to deliver shareholder returns and gain strategic advantage in terms of market visibility and positioning. According to The Banker Magazine, Zenith Bank was selected based on the overall performance of the institution and the opinion of leading financial analysts from the world’s financial markets. The award also indicates the level of trust and confidence on the brand and is a testament to the strong management, sound business model and prudent risk approach of Zenith Bank Plc.
Culture of Excellence, Global Best Practices
Zenith Bank has greatly impacted banking in Nigeria, literally lifting the sector from the era of over-conservatism to one of healthy conflict and dynamism, characterised by a culture of excellence and global best practices. This has been achieved through a combination of the power of vision and a skillful union of banking expertise and cutting-edge technology to create products and services that meet and anticipate customers’ expectations.
Emefiele has also succeeded in deploring the robustness of Zenith Bank to virtually all the sectors of the economy.
For instance, under his leadership, Zenith Bank has been able to grow its agric loan portfolio, ranking amongst the highest contributors in growing the industry agric portfolio from one per cent in 2010 to over four per cent in 2012. The bank also took active part in financing some of the power projects that changed hands from government to the private sector investors. With this in mind, Zenith Bank’s contributions to Nigeria’s macroeconomic growth are seen to be very commendable.
Excellent Ratings
The bank is adjudged to be of incredibly high standard not just on a national level but an international one. Testimony to Emefiele’s leadership qualities is a succession of excellent ratings from local and international agencies. Zenith Bank ranks amongst the world’s 500 valuable brands. Brand Finance Plc ranked Zenith Bank as the 11th most valuable brand in Africa.
As a bank which encouraged hardwork and rewards diligence, Zenith Bank has a culture of retaining and rewarding its senior management and had never hired any director level staff from outside. All its directors evolved through the ranks and are insiders who are literally embodiments of the Zenith philosophy. This has ensured and sustained a culture of commitment, loyalty and consistency as well as ownership of the ideals of the Zenith brand.
Under Emefiele’s watch, Zenith Bank shares currently trade on the London Stock Exchange (LSE) following a listing of the $850 million worth of its shares at $6.80 each in a major step aimed at improving liquidity in the stock through Global Depository Receipts.
Impressive performance parameters such as these are an eloquent indication of Emefiele’s rare penchant for banking and unflinching ability to mitigate existing inefficiencies that often exist in business.
Eyes on 2014
Speaking at a forum on 2014, he says, “year 2014 is obviously a harbinger of change in several aspects of our endeavours and it is not unlikely that even business-to-business and business-to-customer interactions will be re-calibrated. The reform in agriculture and power will begin to take roots and positively impact Nigeria and the citizenry and at Zenith, we are well poised to take advantage of opportunities therefrom in a manner that would support the Nigerian government’s determination to ensure and sustain achievements in the social and economic realms of our livelihood.”
He says, “We will leverage on new experience gathered, knowledge acquired and successes achieved but in large part, we shall make conscious effort to contribute to the overall development of the economy the best we can. We shall focus on creating greater mileage from our engagements through a deliberate diversification of our approaches, expectations and focus. “
According to him, our challenges will include, though not limited to, further elevating our standing as a reputable financial institution by establishing a corporate structure that can stay imperturbable.
Emefiele is confident that, going forward, with the rich experience garnered over the years and his institution’s collective commitment and determination to its corporate goals, Zenith Bank shall achieve even better results and further impact the economy in the years ahead.
Emefiele, an Astute Banker
Godwin Emefiele is a University of Nigeria, Nsukka trained astute banker and also a Harvard University- trained financial Strategist. He graduated as the best MBA student (Finance) from UNN after obtaining a Second Class Upper degree in Banking and Finance in 1984.
He went on to deepen his knowledge of Macroeconomics at Oxford University, having obtained various qualifications and executive education studies in negotiation, strategy, leadership, critical thinking, delivering value/profit from Harvard University, Stanford University and University of Pennsylvania (Wharton Business School).
Emefiele who joined the bank since inception was appointed Deputy Managing Director in 2001. Prior to this appointment, he was the bank’s Executive Director in charge of Corporate Banking, Treasury, Financial Control and Strategic Planning. He has over 23 years banking experience. He became the Group Managing Director/CEO August 1, 2010.

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