Onyeagwu emerged as the CEO of the Year at the Sustainability, Enterprise and Responsibility (SERAS) Awards held last December
Ebenezer Onyeagwu is a miracle working-banker. Unlike the middling marabou, his miracles aren’t deceptive in nature rather each one is an event that creates faith in his abilities as fiscal guru and bank chief. The Zenith Bank chief is not just an administrative Managing Director (MD) but a seasoned leader.
Administrators are always cheap and easy to find, and even cheaper to keep but leaders are worth their weight in gold. Leaders are risk-takers and they are often in very short supply; ones with enduring vision, however, like Ebenezer, are pure gold.
Yes, year 2020 was an incredibly tough year for the global economy as the Covid-19 pandemic brought the world to a standstill. Amidst the gloom and doom, many businessmen and professionals still shone due to their sheer ingenuity and foresight, which not only kept their companies afloat but they also broke new grounds.
At a time many Nigerian banks were hit hard by a range of unfavourable market forces, Zenith Bank, under Ebenezer Onyeagwu, the managing director and chief executive officer, bucked the trend by posting solid growth figures while developing its business through investments in digital infrastructure. And the awards have come in torrents.
Onyeagwu emerged as the CEO of the Year at the Sustainability, Enterprise and Responsibility (SERAS) Awards held last December. According to the judges, he was selected for a plethora of reasons key among these practices include a robust Environmental and Social Management System for screening credit facilities and continued investment in social initiatives in support of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and for joining 131 other banks from across the globe as a founding signatory to the United Nations Environment Programme Finance Initiative (UNEP FI) Principles for Responsible Banking.
The judges found Onyeagwu worthy for his commitment to the promotion of sustainability and responsible business practices in Nigeria by his frontal leadership of sustainability in Zenith Bank, thereby, enabling best industry practices in the banking sector, and for his passion to reduce carbon emissions in the bank’s operations. The bank also emerged winner in two other categories at the SERAS Awards, carting home the awards for ‘Best Company in Promotion of Good Health and Well-Being’ and ‘Best Company in Promotion of Good Health and Well-Being.’
Out of the five finalists for the Best Company in Promotion of Good Health and Well-Being Category, Zenith Bank emerged winner for donating N1 billion in support of efforts to address the COVID-19 pandemic in Nigeria; donation of N100 million towards Lagos State Government efforts to provide relief to the victims of the Abule-Ado pipeline explosion, and for spending over N300 million in 2019 to support various healthcare initiatives across the country.
Zenith Bank was adjudged winner in the category for the Best Company in Promotion of Gender Equality and Women Empowerment for its Z-Woman initiative which offers credit facilities to women-owned businesses at a single-digit interest rate and for a gender-balanced workforce (about 49.80% female and 50.20% male). As at the time of the awards, the Z-Woman initiative had extended up to N1 billion in total credit facilities.
Also in 2020, Zenith Bank won the Biggest Bank in Nigeria by Tier-1 capital, Most Valuable Banking Brand in Nigeria and Bank of the Year (Nigeria) by The Banker, a globally acknowledged provider of economic and financial intelligence for the world’s financial sector with a reputation for objective and incisive reporting. The influential Thisday Newspaper adjudged it Bank of the Decade (People’s Choice) while the Independent Newspaper and BusinessDay Newspaper awarded it Bank of the Year and Best Bank in Retail Banking respectively. Onyeawgu capped the year with the Bank CEO of the Year award by Businessday Newspaper.
Midway into the year 2021, Zenith Bank and Onyeagwu are at it again. In the kitty already are Best Bank in Nigeria by the Global Finance Magazine; Best Commercial Bank, Nigeria,by World Finance; Biggest Bank in Nigeria by Tier-1 Capital and Most Valuable Banking Brand in Nigeria by The Banker; and Best Corporate Governance ‘Financial Services’ Africa by Ethical Boardroom, the trailblazing digital magazine that delivers in-depth coverage and critically-astute analysis of global corporate governance issues.
Interestingly, in 2019, the year he was appointed MD/CEO to succeed Peter Amangbo, Onyeagwu won the Bank CEO of the Year by Champion Newspapers. The bank, under his stewardship, would go on to win the Best Commercial Bank, Nigeria by World Finance; Biggest Bank in Nigeria by Tier-1 capital and Most Valuable Banking Brand in Nigeria by The Banker; Bank of the Year and Best Bank in Retail Banking by BusinessDay Newspaper; Best Digital Bank in Nigeria 2019 by Augusto & Co; Most Innovative Bank of the Year by Tribune Newspaper; and the Best Company in Promotion of Good Health and Well-Being at the SERAS Awards.
Without much ado, the preeminent banker has personified the famous quote of Vince Lombardi that “Winning is not a sometime thing; it’s an all the time thing. You don’t win once in a while; you don’t do things right once in a while; you do them right all of the time. Winning is a habit.”
Onyeagwu, a graduate of accounting from Auchi Polytechnic, began his career at the defunct Financial Merchant Bank in 1991 and later held several management positions in the erstwhile Citizens International Bank Limited until 2002 when he joined Zenith Bank. He served as the deputy managing director between October 2016 and June 2019. The affable banker obtained a postgraduate diploma in Financial Strategy and a certificate in Macroeconomics from the University of Oxford.
Culled: The Capital NG