That almost 30 years of banking experience, which started in one of the now defunct Merchant banks, has culminated in his becoming Managing Director and CEO of one of Nigeria’s largest banks is no small feat. Being at the peak of his career in a bank that also translates to peak (Zenith) is also a fine coincidence.
Good administrators are not easy to find, especially for large groups and corporations. Ebenezer Onyeagwu is one who has proven himself over his three decades of banking experience; little wonder Zenith Bank still posted some fine figures for the year 2020 despite the challenges that came with the Coronavirus pandemic. This feat was openly recognised when he emerged as the CEO of the Year at the Sustainability, Enterprise and Responsibility (SERAS) Awards held in December 2020.
Onyeagwu’s journey to the position he now holds started when he obtained his Ordinary National Diploma (OND) and Higher National Diploma (HND) in Accounting from Federal Polytechnic, Auchi, Edo state (Bendel state) in 1984 and 1987 respectively. While he was still serving out the compulsory National Youth Service Corp (NYSC), he qualified as a chartered accountant in 1989.
Much later, He attended the Saïd Business School, University of Oxford, England for a Postgraduate Diploma in Financial Strategy, and a Certificate in Macroeconomics. He obtained Executive level business education in CEO Academy, Wharton Business School of the University of Pennsylvania. He also went to Columbia Business School of Columbia University, the Harvard Business School of Harvard University for Extensive Executive Level Education in Breakthrough Strategy, and Lagos Business School of the Pan African University, Nigeria where he joined the Senior Executive Management program. He has a masters degree in Finance and Financial Management Services from the University of Salford. He was named a Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (FCA), in 2003.
Onyeagwu began his banking career at the defunct Financial Merchant Bank in 1991 and moved to the erstwhile Citizens International Bank Limited where he, until 2002, held several management positions.
He joined Zenith Bank Plc as a Senior Manager, Internal Control and Audit in 2002. From there, he rose through the ranks to become Assistant General Manager (2003-2004), Deputy General Manager (2004-2005), and then General Manager from 2005 till April 2013. Through these positions, he proved his competence and professionalism in managing risk assets portfolios, treasury functions, strategic top-level corporate governance, IT Group, Credit Administration, Treasury and Foreign Exchange Trading, among others.
In 2013, Onyeagwu became Executive Director. He was in charge of Lagos and South-South Zones, and also had to oversee strategic groups/business units of the bank like the Financial Control & Strategic Planning, Treasury and Correspondent Groups, Human Resources Group, Oil and Gas Group, and Credit Risk Management Group, etc. Onyeagwu also served as Non-Executive Director of Zenith Bank Ghana ltd from 2013 till 2019.
He became Deputy Managing Director of Zenith Bank in October 2016 till June 2019 when he was appointed Group Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer. He also became Chairman of Zenith Nominees ltd and Zenith Pensions Custodian ltd at the same time.
In 2016, Onyeagwu acquired more of Zenith Bank shares, increasing his shares from 3.1 million units to 5.5 million units and thus becoming the third on the list of directors with the most shares. Onyeagwu is on the board of Zenith Bank Ghana, and has served as Non-Executive Director with FMDQ Securities Exchange Plc since June 2019. He has served as Non-Executive Director with Africa Finance Corporation from 2013 till 2019.
According to his LinkedIn profile, other positions he occupies includes Non-Executive Board Member, Lagos State Security Trust Fund (LSSTF) (Part-time) and Non-Executive Director Shared Agency Network Expansion Facilities (SANEF) from September 2019.
Under his watch, the bank was ranked number one bank in Nigeria by tier-1 capital in the 2021 Top 1000 World Banks’ Ranking published by The Banker Magazine, a publication of the Financial Times Group of the United Kingdom, thus retaining the rank for the third consecutive year with a tier-1 capital of $2.64 billion. It also ranks as the 454th bank globally, the only Nigerian bank in the top 500.
The bank also emerged as Best Bank in Nigeria in the Global Finance World’s Best Banks Awards 2020 and 2021; Best Corporate Governance ‘Financial Services’ Africa 2020 and 2021 by the Ethical Boardroom; and Bank of the Year (Nigeria) in The Banker’s Bank of the Year Awards 2020.
Onyeagwu was named Bank CEO of the Year 2019 by Champion Newspapers and Bank CEO of the Year 2020 by BusinessDay Newspapers.