Jim Ovia; a Nigerian entrepreneur and a celebrated Banker

Written by James Okere

Jim Ovia; a Nigerian  entrepreneur and a celebrated Banker. He is co-founder of Zenith Bank Plc and the first Chief Executive of this virile bank. He belonged to the league that employed vision and revolutionized Nigerian Banks through automated banking.

From beginning he had a clear vision of where he was going, and he achieved same through hard work and determination as he had worked in the banking industry as a clerk. Jim studied Business Administration at Southern University, Louisiana, U.S.A. He also obtained his MBA from same University. Jim strongly believed that what you did with the knowledge acquired is more important than what you studied if one intends to achieve greatness. After Jim’s National Youth Service Corps in Nigeria, he worked with First National Bank of Chicago then International Merchant Bank in Lagos, Southern Nigeria where he trained and equipped himself in the banking profession.

Jim indeed worked his way up to the ladder of banking success believing in Dr. Charles Garfield that “Peak performers are people who are committed to a compelling mission. It is very clear that they are deeply about what they do and their efforts”.

With a strong mind to excel, Jim assembled a team and on 30th May, 1990 they received Zenith Bank license and by 16th July, 1990 the Bank commenced operation. For his creativity and passion, Zenith Bank Plc grew to become a big financial services conglomerate, and the bank is not only listed in Nigerian Stock Exchange but also listed in London Stock Exchange; a very wonderful achievement.

Presently, Jim is now into private businesses and his successes are helping in growing the economy of Nigeria. He is into telecommunication, where he owns Visafone, whose subscribers are growing daily. Jim is also into real business.

Jim is a man who dares and has an eye for opportunities; where he built the famous Lagos Civic Centre (a master piece of event venue) was formally a refuse dump. He is a great entrepreneur who is also developing Marriott Hotel in Lagos, Western Nigeria.

Jim likes philanthropy as a way to give back to society. He has established a free co-educational high school called James Hope College in Delta State- Southern Nigeria. In addition, he is the founder of Mankind United To Support Total Education (MUSTE), an organization providing scholarships for the underprivileged. Jim also runs a non-governmental organization for young Nigerians that drive social change through information and communication.

To recognize his efforts in Banking and other endeavours, the Federal Republic of Nigeria in November 2011 conferred on him the national award of the Commander of the Order of the Niger (CON). The vision of Zenith Bank is still being carried on that this year-2013; The Banker Magazine, a publication of Financial Times of London named Zenith Bank the Bank of the Year Nigeria 2013.  Jim is happily married with children. His entrepreneurial achievement is a demonstration of vision, courage and determination.

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