Zenith Bank: A fortress of global best practices

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Peter Amangbo Zenith BankInterview with Peter Amangbo, Group Managing Director & CEO at Zenith Bank Plc

 

 

Zenith Bank has in 26 years grown to become one of the biggest and most profitable banks in Nigeria. Established in May 1990, the bank became a public limited company and was listed on the Nigeria Stock Exchange in 2004 following a highly successful initial public offering.

In a strategic expansionary move, the bank was licensed by the Financial Services Authority (FSA) of the United Kingdom to establish Zenith Bank (UK) Limited as the UK subsidiary bank. The bank’s shares are freely traded on the London Stock Exchange (LSE) following a listing of $850million worth of its shares at $6.80 each in a major step at improving liquidity in the stock through global depository receipts.

The bank also has a presence in Ghana, Sierra Leone and the Gambia with representative offices in South Africa and The People’s Republic of China. In another strategic move that is targeted at the Asian and Middle-Eastern markets, Zenith Bank UK opened a subsidiary in Dubai on 30 January 2016.

Zenith Bank, the biggest Tier-1 bank in Nigeria, has greatly impacted banking there, lifting the sector from the era of over-conservatism to one of dynamism, characterised by a culture of excellence and global best practices. The bank achieved this through the power of vision, skilful union of banking expertise and cutting-edge technology with which it met and anticipated the varied and changing appetites of its existing and potential customers.

The bank is a clear leader in the digital space with several firsts in the deployment of innovative products, solutions and an assortment of alternative channels that ensure convenience, speed and safety of transactions. The bank has shaped and continues to influence certain critical aspects of development in Nigeria and has a knack for setting the pace and raising benchmarks.

Zenith Bank management

Zenith Bank’s management team is made up of seasoned professionals led by Peter Amangbo, the group managing director and CEO, who has been on the board for more than a decade. He took over the reins in July 2014 from Godwin Emefiele, who was appointed the governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria.

Having been honed by its founder Jim Ovia, successive leaderships of the bank drew upon its superior people, excellent service culture and continuous deployment of state-of-the-art technology to keep the institution at the forefront of Nigeria’s banking industry. Like Ovia, the strategy, strict adherence to policies/procedures and rare determination to break and surpass records were the impetus for the successes achieved by Emefiele and now, Amangbo. The seamless transition at the bank is clear evidence of a well-planned institution and is consistent with the bank’s tradition and succession strategy of grooming leaders from within. While Amangbo’s leadership skills and cognate experience are a significant advantage, in line with the bank’s tradition, he continues to rely on the strength of the board, management
and staff to sustain stellar performance.

In just a quarter of a century, the bank has grown in virtually all parameters. The collaborative management approach adopted by the bank in its decision-making processes has created one of Nigeria’s strongest management teams, with an average of 18 years’ experience at the highest level of the bank’s administration. This implies that the turnover rate at the bank is very low and allows for continuity, consistency, mentorship and focus.

“Zenith Bank’s management team is made up of seasoned professionals led by Peter Amangbo, the group managing director and CEO, who has been on the board for over a decade”

Working with the trendsetting chairman, Jim Ovia for more than two decades within a framework that synthesises opportunities and mitigates challenges has positioned Amangbo in good stead to continue to deliver on the bank’s promises.

People and talent

People and talent are two equalisers in the bank’s value chain and the institution has leveraged these to create innovative solutions that often exceed customers’ expectations.  Continuity of direction and consistency in the value delivery model of the bank are anchored on its precept of building a community of stars, rather than individual excellence, with an aligned mindset towards its vision, culture and brand equity. Ultimately, the bank has succeeded in building a high-performance, people-centred organisation that is greater than the sum of its parts.

The bank’s management assets are manifested in the ability of its staff to combine knowledge to create value for the customers.  They combine vision with precision, using creativity, skills and ideas to expand the bank’s reach into the lives of the customers by helping them fulfil their needs in a timely and desired manner.

The bank’s commitment to create, build and nurture value among its stakeholders is further enhanced by its sound credit risk model and operational risk management system.

Strategic focus

Zenith Bank has clearly distinguished itself in the industry through superior service quality, unique customer experience and sound financial indices. These have become part of its corporate culture to the extent that the bank is easily associated with attributes, such as: best-in-class customer experience, creativity, excellent financial performance, good asset quality, stable management, dedicated and highly skilled work-force, cutting-edge information and communication technology, and efficient and effective distribution channels.

■              The vision: to become the leading Nigerian, technology-driven, global financial institution, providing a distinctively unique range of financial services

■              The mission: to build the Zenith brand into a reputable international financial institution recognised for innovation, superior performance and creating premium value for all stakeholders

■              Core values: integrity, professionalism, excellence, best corporate governance, commitment, transparency and service

The bank’s strategy of assessing and managing its impact on the industry forms an integral part of its strategic objective. The bank’s liquidity profile remains very strong and its risk management practices give assurance that the profile will be sustained on the short-run and improved upon over time.

“The bank has zero tolerance for compromises and huge respect for integrity, consistency and commitment”

The bank’s growth momentum has increased over time and impacted positively on its standing as a market leader. In essence, Zenith Bank continues to record remarkable success on the sustainability agenda, which is at the heart of its strategic and business models.

Endorsements and recognitions

Zenith Bank’s impressive growth pattern and performance over the years have earned it excellent ratings, recognitions and endorsements from local and international agencies and institutions. The Banker Magazine, a publication of the Financial Times of London in a 2013 survey, rated Zenith as the Biggest Bank in Nigeria by Tier-1 capital. Forbes & CNBC Africa ranks Zenith bank as the third biggest company in West Africa.

In 2015 the bank was awarded three certifications by the British Standards Institution (BSI) for Information Security Management System ISO/IEC 27001:2013, IT Service Management System ISO/IEC 20000-1:2011 and Business Continuity Management System, ISO 22301:2012. This is a vivid attestation of the bank’s continual commitment to offer its customers and stakeholders enhanced satisfaction in a creative and secure environment.

Zenith Bank is renowned for a first-in-class service across businesses and consumer appetites. The bank’s philosophy infers that businesses should consider their customers a great business asset. Even more, the bank’s sustainability enthusiasm is clear evidence of a visionary organisation that has zero tolerance for compromises and huge respect for valuable assets of integrity, consistency and commitment. This subtle but compelling disposition on the part of the bank drives its innovative philosophy and approach to its entire operations.

Ethical Boardroom meets Peter Amangbo, group managing director and CEO at Zenith Bank

EB: What progressive steps have you taken to enhance the bank’s ethical practices?

Having been on the board for more than a decade, I understand that to achieve the standard ethical practice we seek, there is need for clear and consistent communication across the board. Our current strategy is to build on the successes of my predecessors, ensuring that the bank does not go against ethical standards and regulatory requirements. We have therefore developed a standard code of conduct and set up a team to monitor and implement a strict adherence to this code.  In addition, we have also institutionalised corporate governance, setting an industry-wide example of best practices in that field.

EB: Corporate governance codes are going through a transition period in Nigeria, how difficult has it been to adapt to international best practice standards?
The dynamics of financial business operations in Nigeria are quite peculiar, but looked at thoroughly, it enables the requisite mix for the practice of corporate governance at the highest level. The conferment of the Ethical Boardroom Best Corporate Governance Award on the bank is a clear testament to our adherence to global standards. This, no doubt, is borne out of our commitment to quality in all our dealings with various stakeholders.

EB: Conflict of interests and remuneration policies of directors have been a cause for concern in the past for Nigerian banks; how independent is Zenith’s board?

Zenith Bank prides itself as one of the banks in the country with a truly independent board. Again, the remuneration policy of the board of directors is in line with laid-down principles and policies. These have ensured that issues of conflict of interests hardly had a place on our board and have led to increased value creation for all stakeholders.

EB: Diversity is one of the pillars of good corporate governance and long-term value creation, would you say that is the case at Zenith?

Zenith Bank is noted for its commitment to promoting diversity. This is evidenced by our promotion of diversity in our recruitment processes and board appointments. These no doubt have contributed to the bank having one of the lowest staff turnover in the industry. As an institution, we delight in our differences and draw strength from the diverse contributions therefrom; knowing that to achieve the goals we have set, the aggregate experiences of members of staff is necessary and non-negotiable.

Zenith BankEB: The global banking regulatory landscape is changing; what strides have Zenith taken to stay ahead of the compliance curve?

We have stayed ahead by constantly innovating our processes and developing a bond with our stakeholders and the environments where we operate. For us, banking is about our customers and their varied appetites in a constantly changing world. We have built a rare ability to adapt in a manner that makes everyone a winner.

EB: What does it mean for Zenith Bank to be recognised as a regional leader in corporate governance?

It certainly means a lot for our brand, not only in the African continent but also globally. It is a testimony of how far we have come and how well we have been able to ensure accountability, fairness and transparency in our dealings with our various stakeholders. This recognition affirms our commitment to professionalism, ethical conduct and sustenance of global best practices, which is attributable to the joint collaboration of the management and staff.

EB: Zenith scored exceptionally high marks for risk management in our nominee questionnaire, can you explain why having a best-in-class enterprise risk management strategy is vital to the bank’s growth?

The benefits of having a potent enterprise risk management strategy, particularly in the financial services industry that is built solely on trust, cannot be overemphasised. As such, we place a high premium on developing top-of-the-range risk management policies and strategies that are capable of not only promoting the sound health of the bank and protecting its assets, but also ensuring its growth and survival. In essence, having a best-in-class enterprise risk management strategy is crucial for ensuring the sustainability and survival of the bank as an institution.

EB: Good governance requires a constant and consistent effort to communicate corporate policies to all stakeholders. What mechanisms does Zenith have in place?

Talking about mechanisms, you will agree with me that each stakeholder requires a particular channel. For instance, we communicate to our investors through our annual general meetings, publications, emails and information available on the bank’s website; we also communicate to customers through emails, social media, and through our staff. For our staff, policies are communicated through the intranet, nuggets, pop ups, regular trainings and workshops.

EB:  Jim Ovia laid the foundations for Zenith Bank to become an African banking powerhouse; what is your vision over the next five years?

Without sounding immodest, the history of the Nigerian banking industry will not be complete without a mention of the role played by Jim Ovia, the Founder and Chairman of Zenith Bank Plc, especially his contributions as a trailblazer in technological innovations in the banking industry. Indeed, working with him for over two decades has placed me and the rest of my team in good stead to continue to deliver on the bank’s promises and further enhance the bank’s growth trajectory.

Our vision as a bank, therefore, for the next five years is to become a global powerhouse in the facilitation of businesses across the various continents of the world, while also being recognised as a household name on the African continent.