Zenith Bank built the roads to some of its branches – Jim Ovia


Jim Ovia, founder of Zenith Bank, says his company constructed some of the roads to its branches.

Ovia, who made this known while speaking with Zain Asher on CNN’s Marketplace Africa, said poor infrastructure was one of the biggest challenges the bank faced when it started.

“Issues like inadequacies of infrastructural availability were solved when we began building our own roads to our branches. Our customers need to be able to reach us… I call it BYOI – Build Your Own Infrastructure,” he said.

He said the bank had recorded tremendous progress as the shareholder value had increased from $4 million to $4 billion in 20 years.

“I started Zenith Bank in 1990 and 20 years later, the Zenith Bank shareholder value is four billion US dollars. From four million dollars to four billion dollars… You can do the maths. It’s some thousands of percentages of return,” he said.

“These kinds of numbers and this kind of return doesn’t happen everywhere. You don’t even get it in America, Europe or Russia. You can get it in Nigeria.”

Ovia said recession affected his business the same way other parts of the world experienced economic downturn.

“During the recession in Nigeria, just like in any other country or economy, opening [non-performing loans] will slow down,” he said.

“Not because those loans are terribly bad or because those loans will be completely written off as lost. Businesses did slow down and so repayment programmes equally slowed down.”

Ovia said it would be very easy for a young entreprenuer to get a loan from his bank.

“It would be very easy. The individual must meet what we call ‘risk acceptance criteria’ and when he does meet these criteria, he’ll get a loan.”

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