New standards for banking

Victor Adoji, Head of Corporate Communications at Zenith, charts the bank's successful strategy and progress in the Nigerian market

Feature image

In its 22 years of operation, Zenith Bank has grown to become one of the most profitable banks in Nigeria. Established in 1990, it opened for business commercially in July of the same year. After going public in June 2004, the bank was listed on the Nigerian Stock Exchange on October 21 2004, following a successful IPO. The bank currently has a shareholder base of over one million, and shareholder funds of $2.55bn as at the end of Q2 2012.

Guided through experience
Headquartered in Lagos, Nigeria, Zenith Bank has over 500 branches and business offices nationwide, with a presence in all the state capitals, Federal Capital Territory (FCT), and major towns in the country. In April 2007, Zenith became the first Nigerian bank in 25 years to be licensed by the UK Financial Services Authority (FSA), giving rise to Zenith Bank UK. Zenith Bank also has a presence in Ghana, Sierra Leone, Gambia and a representative office in Johannesburg, South Africa. Another representative office is being opened in Beijing, China this year.

Zenith’s service to those unable to support themselves is not just to its invaluable customers but also to its shareholders, employees and the larger society

Management is key, and Godwin Emefiele, the Group Managing Director and CEO, pioneers innovation, and has been on the board for more than a decade. He took over the reins from the founding CEO, Jim Ovia, in August 2010. The bank’s performance is built on its experienced leadership, professionalism and vision of the management and staff.
The operating results of the bank, since it went public in 2004, indicate that total assets grew from $1.25bn in 2004 to $15.48bn in Q2 2012, representing a growth of 1,138.4 percent. Within the same period, total deposits went up by 1,174 percent from $845m to $10.77bn, as at June 2012. The increasing market share for Zenith, and a strong acceptance by the banking public has led to a shift in how finances are dealt with in Nigeria.

Vision through strategic objectives
From inception, Zenith set out to distinguish itself in the banking industry by customer service and financial indices. The vision has been to build it into a reputable international financial institution, recognised for innovation while creating premium value for all stakeholders. Its strategic objectives include the continuous improvement of its capacity to meet the customers’ dynamic banking needs, as well as sustaining growth in challenging business environments through a number of facets. These include:
– continuous investment in networking branches, to bring quality banking services to existing and potential customers;
– deployment of up-to-date and state-of-the-art ICT infrastructure;
– investment in training and re-training of HR; and
– maintaining and reinforcing the core customer service delivery charter.

Performance through service delivery
Placing high premium on the pivotal role of service delivery, Zenith looks to consistently surpass customer expectations. The bank has put in place a strategy to ensure the changing demands of the customer are met. The underlying philosophy is for the bank to remain at all times, a customer-focused institution, with a clear understanding of its market and environment. Committing to customer satisfaction has, at various times, led to critical and pervasive roles being assigned to: Total Quality Management (TQM); customer service ambassadors; and operation service excellence teams. Therefore, all structures and processes are designed to drive consistent improvement in the quality of service delivery.

The foundations of its structures and processes were set on cutting-edge Information and Communications Technology (ICT) infrastructure. This ensures that every transaction is carried out via a route that makes for speed, flexibility, accuracy and convenience for the customer. All activities are anchored on the e-platform, ensuring service is delivered electronically to all customers irrespective of place, time and distance.

This puts Zenith ahead of the Nigerian banking curve, allowing it to be prepared for the cash-light policy of the CBN–which began in April of this year. Leveraging on its deep understanding of the local business environment and global financial market, Zenith has developed unique e-solutions to meet varied and specific customer needs.

Corporate social investment
There is a strong sense of social investment in Nigeria, and to improve the quality of life of the undeserved is key. Zenith’s service to those unable to support themselves is not just to its invaluable customers but also to its shareholders, employees and the larger society. This is why business activities are carried out under the strictest compliance of corporate ethics, and respect for people and constituted authorities. A clear understanding of the environment, a strong knowledge of the resource gaps and pressing needs of communities and people within and beyond areas of operation drive the Corporate Social Investment (CSI) initiative.

The primary reason is the willingness and desire to give back to the people and communities that have been an encouragement in Zenith’s pursuit of enterprise, as well as the conviction that partnering with the public sector to address some areas of need is a healthy investment on the present and future. As Zenith becomes more global, the focus of its CSI policy will be remodelled to reflect its status as a global brand. The CSI policy reflects its commitment to global best practices, including Principles and Conventions of the UN on sustainable development, environment and human rights. The workplace principles and professional ethics of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and other global institutions are dedicated to the enhancement of the common good.

In January 2012, Zenith was recognised as one of the 30 global brands making sustainable impact on operating environments in the area of corporate social responsibility. The recognition was a prelude to the United Nations Development Programme’s (UNDP) conference on sustainable development, held in Brazil earlier this year. Committed to its resolve on CSR initiatives, which is geared towards affecting people, by positively impacting the environment and supporting government efforts to improve the wellbeing of the community. Zenith Bank has recorded good ratings from both international – Fitch Ratings, Standard & Poor’s, and local – Agusto & Company, rating agencies. These ratings are supported by its leading market position in all key performance indices.

By consistently putting in place a robust system of corporate governance – which includes honesty, trust, integrity, accountability as well as commitment to the organisation’s goals, Zenith work to uphold strong corporate governance and transparency, and adopt a robust public disclosure policy.

This is to forestall incidences of abuse, such as insider trading. All financial information, as well as exceptional and extraordinary events capable of influencing the public’s decision concerning the bank is approved for dissemination by the board, and then related through authorised means to the public at the same time. The release of such information is done speedily and as often as stipulated by the regulatory bodies.