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Jim Ovia: 10 Things You Didn’t Know About Founder of Zenith Bank



By Paul Mbagwu

Nigeria Business man and banker, Jim Ovia, is the founders of Zenith Bank and Visafone Communications Limited (sold to MTN), who currently standing as one of Nigeria’s 10 richest men is worth $980 million (

Jim Ovia, who stepped down from the top job at Zenith Bank Plc eight years ago is also the largest individual shareholder with a stake of slightly more than 9%, which has a current value of more than $200 million.


He is the Chairman of the National Software Development Initiative (NSDI), Chairman of National Information Technology Advisory Council (NITAC), as well as that of Cyberspace Network Limited.

Here are some other facts about the banker-billionaire that you might not know:

  1. SON of a prominent chief in Delta State:

Jim Ovia is the second son of the Obi Olihe of Agbor-Obi, one of the most important and revered chiefs in Agbor Kingdom, Delta State. By hierarchy, his father is next to the Dein, the traditional ruler of Agbor, and the Olihe title has been in the Ovia family for ages.

  1. Began his banking career as a clerk:

Unlike others who start from the top, he began his banking career as a clerk at then Barclays Bank, DCO, (now Union Bank) in 1973 at the Ikeja (Oba Akran Avenue) branch, This was shortly after he finished secondary school and the young Ovia used to take the LMTS (Lagos Municipal Transport) buses to and from work.

  1. He travelled to America in search of greener pastures after secondary school:

 Jim Ovia worked for several years as a bank clerk before he found his way to the United States of America in search of greener pastures. He got his education at Southern University Louisiana and North East University Louisiana, University. He also went on to attend Harvard Business School where he attended the Executive Management Programme in 1977.

  1. He has great love for Information Technology:

Aside banking, Jim Ovia has a great passion for Information Technology; he fell in love with computerx when he worked at Baton Rouge Bank and Trust Company as a part-time computer operator.

  1. Pioneer of online-real time banking in Nigeria:

 Jim Ovia was the one who introduced electronic banking that eased the laborious work load of manual ledger entries in the Nigerian banking sector. The online-real time system enabled the entire grid of branch offices to be networked through IT technology.

  1. He did his Youth Service in Union Bank:

He never jumped the protocol regarding mandatory service to fatherland, as he did his mandatory, one year, National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) programme at Union Bank at 131 Broad Street.

  1. Reputable member of the Governing Council of Lagos State University: Ovia is a member of the Governing Council of Lagos State University and also a member of the Board of Trustees, Redeemer’s University for Nations, Lagos. He is also the Proprietor of the University of Information and Communication Technology, Delta State.
  2. First Zenith Bank branch started in Victoria Island:

 He along with some investors started Zenith Bank in 1990 on Ajose Adeogun (Victoria Island).

Lover of  Afro Beat:

  1. Jim Ovia used to go to Fela’s African Shrine to listen to Fela Ransome-Kuti to catch fun and relax. And the song, ‘Shakara Oloje’ was his favorite.

  1. More than one wife

Jim Ovia had another wife who had other children for him:

In other words, Kay Ovia is not his first wife. He has had another who had children for him as well.