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Zenith Bank emerges Most Sustainable Bank in Nigeria for the second time in International Banker Awards 2024

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.As Umeoji assumes duty as GMD/CEO today

THOMAS IMONIKHE

Zenith Bank Plc has been named the “Most Sustainable Bank, Nigeria” in the International Banker 2024 Banking Awards, retaining the title for the second consecutive year.

The award coincided with the assumption of duty Monday, of Dame (Dr.) Adaora Umeoji, OON, as Group Managing Director, GMD, and making history as the first female CEO of the 34-year-old financial institution to occupy the position, following approval by the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN.

She takes over from Dr. Ebenezer Onyeagwu, whose five-year term expired on May 31, 2024, after a very successful tenure. The latter was Champion Newspapers Banker of the Year for 2019 and 2023, a prestigious award bestowed on the recipient, after a thorough scrutiny of his performance during the financial year under review, by the media organization based on objective parameters.

Commenting on the award, the GMD/CEO of Zenith Bank, Dame (Dr.) Adaora Umeoji, OON, said: “We are deeply honoured to be recognised as the Most Sustainable Bank in Nigeria for the second time in a row. This prestigious award underscores our steadfast commitment to sustainability and reinforces our belief that responsible banking is essential for long-term success and societal impact.”

She dedicated the award to the Founder and Chairman of Zenith Bank Plc, Dr. Jim Ovia, CFR. She lauded the Bank’s stakeholders for their commitment and unwavering support in ensuring that Zenith remains a highly successful institution.

She said, “This remarkable achievement is a testament to the visionary and impactful leadership of our Founder and Chairman, Dr. Jim Ovia, CFR. His exceptional foresight and dedication have been the cornerstone of our success. His ability to inspire and guide with strategic acumen has been instrumental in steering Zenith Bank to new heights. Along with the strategic guidance of our esteemed Board members, the unwavering commitment of our ever-diligent staff, and the steadfast support of our loyal customers, Dr. Ovia’s leadership has been pivotal in transforming our sustainability initiatives into a reality. We owe this success to his relentless pursuit of excellence and his deep-seated commitment to redefining the banking landscape in Nigeria.

‘’This recognition reaffirms Zenith Bank’s position as a trailblazer in sustainable banking practices, setting a benchmark for excellence within the Nigerian banking industry and beyond. The Bank has been a leader in monitoring and reporting sustainability impact. Since becoming the first Bank in Africa to publish a stand-alone sustainability report in accordance with the GRI Standards: Core Option in 2016, Zenith Bank has consistently published assured stand-alone sustainability reports. The Bank is one of the few institutions in Nigeria that tracks its carbon emissions using a certified tool built on the internationally recognised Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Protocol’’.

According to her, ‘’Zenith Bank is deeply committed to environmental, social, and governance (ESG) values, subscribing to the Triple Bottom Line principle, which encompasses People, Planet, and Profit. As a leading financial institution that services various sectors of the economy, the Bank considers Environmental and Social (E&S) risk management critical to its sustainability strategy’’.

Meanwhile, Zenith Bank’s track record of excellent performance has continued to earn the brand numerous awards, including being recognised as Best Bank in Nigeria for the fourth time in five years, from 2020 to 2022 and in 2024, in the Global Finance World’s Best Banks Awards; the Best Bank for Digital Solutions in Nigeria in the Euromoney Awards 2023; being listed in the World Finance Top 100 Global Companies in 2023; being recognised as the Number One Bank in Nigeria by Tier-1 Capital for the 14th consecutive year in the 2023 Top 1000 World Banks Ranking published by The Banker Magazine; Best Commercial Bank, Nigeria, for three consecutive years from 2021 to 2023 in the World Finance Banking Awards and  Best Corporate Governance Bank, Nigeria in the World Finance Corporate Governance Awards 2022 and 2023.

Other recognitions are the Bank of the Year (Nigeria) in The Banker’s Bank of the Year Awards 2020 and 2022; Best in Corporate Governance Financial Services Africa for four successive years from 2020 to 2023 by the Ethical Boardroom; Most Sustainable Bank, Nigeria in the International Banker 2023 Banking Awards; Best Commercial Bank, Nigeria and Best Innovation in Retail Banking, Nigeria in the International Banker 2022 Banking Awards.

Similarly, the Bank emerged as the Most Valuable Banking Brand in Nigeria in the Banker Magazine Top 500 Banking Brands 2020 and 2021; Bank of the Year 2023 and Retail Bank of the Year for three consecutive years from 2020 to 2022 at the BusinessDay Banks and Other Financial Institutions (BAFI) Awards. Also, Zenith Bank was named Bank of the Decade (People’s Choice) at the ThisDay Awards 2020, Bank of the Year 2021 by Champion Newspaper, Bank of the Year 2022 by New Telegraph Newspaper, and Most Responsible Organisation in Africa 2021 by SERAS.

Published by Finance Publishing Limited, the International Banker Magazine, United Kingdom, is a leading global source of authoritative analysis and opinion on banking, finance and world affairs. Its influence, integrity, accuracy and objective opinion have earned it global recognition.

The International Banker Awards strive to recognise the most worthy financial institutions around the world – those not just doing their jobs well but exceptionally well – those operating at the industry’s cutting edge and setting new performance levels to which others will aspire. The 2024 Banking Awards focused on various criteria, including the provision of much-needed capital for economic growth, cutting-edge innovation to enhance security and efficiency, commitment to sustainability and ESG principles, as well as intelligent investing to maximise profits and shareholder value.

Meanwhile, Dr. Umeoji who assumes duty Monday is the Bank’s first female GMD/CEO since inception in May 1990, and her appointment is consistent with the bank’s executive transition tradition, succession plan, and strategy of grooming leaders from within. Dr. Ovia, founder and chairman of the bank was its pioneering Managing Director.

However, prior to this appointment, Dr. Umeoji has been the Deputy Managing Director of the bank since October 28, 2016 and has close to 30 years cognate banking experience of which twenty-six (26) years has been with Zenith Bank. The Bank had announced her elevation on March 19 but taken effect from Saturday June 1, 2024 after mandatory approval by the apex bank.

Recall that both Dr. Onyeagwu and shareholders of Zenith Bank, had at the 33rd Annual General Meeting (AGM) held at the Civic Centre, Victoria Island, Lagos, recently thrown their weight behind Umeoji’s emergence as CEO describing her as astute banker who was capable of delivering on the financial institution’s mission and ensuring adequate returns on their investment and bank’s superior performance just like past CEOs.

“As I prepare to pass the baton to Dame (Dr) Adaora Umeoji, OON, I am confident in the bank’s trajectory under her leadership. I would like to express my profound gratitude to our Founder and Chairman, Dr Jim Ovia, CFR, and to the board, shareholders, customers, and staff for their steadfast support throughout my tenure. I earnestly request that you extend the same level of support to my successor. It has been a remarkable journey, and I am immensely proud of what we have accomplished together. As I commence the mandatory regulatory cooling-off period, I am filled with optimism for Zenith Bank’s future, assured that we are on the path to even greater success,” Onyeagwu said.

Speaking in similar vein, Dr. Faruk Umar, President of the Association of the Rights of Nigerian Shareholders (AARNS), expressed his gratitude to the Chairman for facilitating a seamless succession plan stressing that: “The bank has performed exceptionally well, particularly in terms of succession planning. It’s encouraging to see the new Managing Director promoted from within, reinforcing our belief in the bank’s leadership development. This internal promotion strategy motivates our staff, giving them confidence that they can aspire to the highest levels within the bank.”

Also, Dr. Umeoji, who parades brilliant credentials, is an alumnus of the prestigious Harvard Business School where she attended the Advanced Management Program (AMP) and an alumnus of Columbia Business School with a Certificate in the Global Banking Program.

She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Sociology from the University of Jos, a Bachelor’s Degree in Accounting and a First-Class honours in Law from Baze University, Abuja. She holds a Master of Laws from the University of Salford, United Kingdom, a Master in Business Administration (MBA) from the University of Calabar, and also has a doctorate in business administration from Apollos University, USA.

Adaora holds a Certificate in Economics for Business from the prestigious MIT Sloan School of Management, USA, and has attended various management programmes in renowned Universities around the world including the strategic thinking and Management programme at Wharton Business School, USA. She also attended the executive program in Strategic Management, and has a Certificate in Leading Global Business all from Harvard Business School, USA.

She is a fellow of notable professional bodies including the Chartered Banker Institute,UK, Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria, Nigerian Institute of Management, Institute of Credit Administration, Institute of Certified Public Accountants of Nigeria, Institute of Chartered Mediators and Conciliators, and the Institute of Chartered Secretaries and Administrators of Nigeria among others.

In 2022, the Federal Government of Nigeria honored Dr. Umeoji with Officer of the Order of the Niger, as recognition of her contributions to nation building. She is a Peace Advocate of the United Nations (UN-POLAC).

Dr. Umeoji has impacted many lives through her philanthropic and humanitarian activities through her NGOs; Pink Breathe Cancer Foundation and the Adorable Foundation that educates, caters for Cancer patients and indigent children education especially the Girl-Child. Her contribution to humanity was recognized by the Sun Newspaper which recently bestowed on her the Humanitarian Service Icon Award for 2023.

As a result of her passion for promoting professionalism in the banking industry and improving the well-being of the less privileged, Dr. AdaoraUmeoji, OON founded the Catholic Bankers Association of Nigeria (CBAN), a platform she uses to promote ethical banking and service to humanity.

She is a Lady of the Order of Knights of St. John International (KSJI), and was awarded a Papal Knight of the Order of St. Sylvester by His Holiness Pope Francis.

 

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