Nigeria’s Zenith Bank group reported growth of 10 percent in gross earnings and in profit before tax in 2021 – a remarkable achievement considering the ongoing economic impact of the pandemic. Group Managing Director Ebenezer Onyeagwu discusses the ways the bank is innovating and its post-pandemic strategy. Watch the other parts of this interview in our Zenith Bank playlist.
World Finance: Ebenezer, talk me through those numbers: how was this growth achieved?
Ebenezer Onyeagwu: Traditionally, Zenith has been over the years a performance-driven organisation. The figure you see typifies the real core fundamentals of the business. We are very dominant when it comes to the corporate business, and indeed retail side too!
When we started retail business three years ago, we had about only 3.4 million accounts. But today we have 10 million accounts. We had about three million cards, today we have about 14 million active cards, and it’s growing.
We are the bank with the largest shareholders’ fund – about ¢3.2bn – that gives us the deepest pockets to do whatever kind of deal there is available to be done in the country.
We also have a pool of talent, the best in class set of teams working for us. And we also have a board that is very well diversified – so that also provides effective challenges in the board deliberations.
So the result you see is just a reflection of the history of performance of the organisation, and also the kind of quality and calibre of team that we have.
World Finance: As you say, Zenith has customers from retail up to corporate – how are you innovating for each of those segments?
Ebenezer Onyeagwu: The way we are innovating is looking at the customer journey, and being able to understand the aspirations, and making sure that we develop the right products.
So the first thing we did was to create an omnichannel, so that we can integrate and engage customers at whatever segment. We have mobile banking, we have the POS, we have ATM, we have the internet banking. So the kind of platform we have gives us that delivery to connect with customers at every segment of the market.
We are also able to integrate and connect with any business that has the artificial programme interface. So we are building products and services to really align with the demands of the market.
At the corporate end of the business, we are able to innovate – if you are a corporate customer with Zenith, you can receive your money from whatever part of the country where you are. Then you can also make your payment from wherever.
We are also refining and promoting digital literacy and awareness, that is helping people to really embrace the use of digital technology in business. In fact we see ourselves as a technology company with a banking licence. Just because of the disposition we have towards technology applications.
World Finance: Now, what is the strategy for Zenith Bank group as the world finds a post-pandemic new normal?
Ebenezer Onyeagwu: Post-pandemic, a lot more transactions will be done electronically. Therefore what we have decided to do is, beyond the omnichannel that we use in engaging customers, we are looking at building a super app that is integrative. We will be looking at things like expanding our digital footprint. We also will be rethinking and remodelling our business services and products to ensure that they align with the aspiration of the new normal.
The board recently approved us to invest over $100m in building new enterprise architecture, and also building new applications that will give us that position and dominance that will secure a privileged position to take advantage of the opportunity.
Above all, we need to be assertive in the market with the digital application, and occupy that position of right of play in whatever segment.