Jim Ovia is a veteran banker with more than three decades of experience in the industry. He is the founder of Zenith Bank in Nigeria where he worked for over 20 years as Chief Executive Officer and Group Managing Director. His leadership at the bank positioned Zenith as one of the most profitable, largest and most respected banks on the African continent. Zenith was founded by Ovia in 1990 and is licensed as a commercial bank. It has several subsidiaries including: Zenith Pension Custodian, Zenith Insurance, Zenith Bank Ghana, Zenith Bank UK, CyberSpace Networks and Zenith Trust Company. Ovia is responsible for introducing a range of innovations and technological developments in the banking industry in Nigeria that not only brought great success to Zenith, but also created a major industry-wide shift.
Besides his considerable achievements in the banking industry, Jim Ovia is also a seasoned business executive in the telecommunications and technology arenas. He is the founder of Visafone Communications Ltd. – a Nigerian telecommunication company which was voted as ‘The Best ICT Company’ and ‘The Best Telecom Brand’ in Nigeria in 2008. As in 2016 Visafone has over three million subscribers.
Philanthropy and Sponsorship
As a noted philanthropist Jim Ovia has been in charge of several NGOs including the Nigeria Internet Group. In his personal capacity Ovia founded the Jim Ovia Foundation, Mankind United to Support Total Education and the Youth Empowerment/ICT Foundation. The Jim Ovia Foundation was launched with the aim of running programs that nurture upliftment of underprivileged youths through social and educational initiatives. MUSTE is a charity organisation with the goal of providing educational scholarships for underprivileged students. Youth Empowerment/ICT Foundation is geared for improving the economic and social welfare of young people in Nigeria by inspiring them to embrace IT and communication technology.
Honours, Memberships and Titles
His many professional achievements have led to Ovia being given several honours, memberships, and titles and receiving national honour in Nigeria. His titles include being the Chairman of the National Information Technology, and the Chairman of the Nigerian Software Development Initiative. He holds memberships to the Digital Bridge Institute and the Honorary International Investor Council – and is the Chairman of Cyberspace Network Limited. Ovia is also a member of the Board of Trustees at the Redeemer’s University for Nations, a member of the Governing Council of Lagos State University and was previously a member of the Governing Council of the Nigerian Investment Promotion Commission. He also previously served as a board member of the American International School of Lagos.
Jim Ovia was born in 1951 in Nigeria. He achieved a Master’s degree in Business Administration and a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Business Administration in the United States from the University of Louisiana and Southern University, also in Louisiana. Ovia is married, has two children and owns major real estate holdings across Nigeria. He has a net worth of around US$550 million and as in 2016 is considered as the 37th wealthiest person in Africa.