Yesterday marked five years since Zenith Bank Ghana began banking business in Ghana, and within this short space of time, it has caused the industry to sit up.

Five years into the journey, Zenith Bank has against all odds proved its skeptics wrong, and has turned them into either their advocates, or caused them to watch in awe, while it overcomes every obstacle in its way.

In September, 2005 it was unheard of for a bank with a Nigerian parentage to flourish in a market which is oligopolistic in nature, and worse still Ghanaians at that time were unwilling to do business with a bank whose roots are firmly Nigerian because of their perception of the ‘419’ factor.

During that period, three of the banks operating in the country controlled more than 60 percent of the total market share, leaving the remaining 40 plus to be shared among the remaining 19 banks at that time.

Defying all odds, Zenith stepped up to the plate, crafted a vision which intended to make it the reference point in banking, and today it has become a success story, confounding its bitterest critics.

It has warmed itself into the hearts of Ghanaians; it has now become a household name. Zenith has created value for its customers, employers, and its shareholders, and the economy at large. It has become one of the most respected banks in the country. Otherwise, how could one explain why just two years into operation, it was voted the Best Bank of the Year.

Commenting on the bank’s performance, the CEO/MD of Zenith, Mr. Daniel Asiedu who is also a pioneer staff said: “From a humble beginning, we have become a major player, redefining banking in the country. Our five year journey has been interesting and eventful. We have succeeded because of our collective will, to become the reference point in the provision of prompt, flawless and innovative banking services in the Ghanaian banking industry.”

“Our biggest challenge at that time was to get Ghanaians to accept our brand especially because there was a lot of apprehension about doing business with Nigerian banks and businesses. But today, that is no longer an issue. We have been accepted beyond into every home and business in Ghana.

“Another challenge was getting the staff to imbibe the Zenith culture. We had people with different views and backgrounds, and getting them to imbibe the culture was quite interesting.

“One of my lows was that any time we couldn’t close a deal because we didn’t have presence in a particular geographic location.”

In a short period, Zenith Bank has improved upon its operating capacity, size, market share and industry rankings in all parameters. It has built financial, structural and technological muscle, established its presence in all four corners of the country and has become a beacon of innovation and service excellence in the Ghanaian banking industry. Zenith Bank played a major role in the transformation of the banking industry into an intensely competitive, customer-oriented, more efficient and technologically inclined industry.

Another pioneer staff member who recounted her experience during the initial stage of the bank is Mrs. Abiola Bawuah, the General Manager. “When we started operations at that time it was full of anxiety because people were very apprehensive of doing business with a company of Nigerian origin, let alone a bank. We were also anxious of the caliber of people we need to employ, and very mindful of the social issues.”

“We wanted to be the best so we took the smartest people in the market. We were also keen on building a strong bank so we knew we had to get the big companies in our books, which we finally did. We ensured that our products and services met the needs of our clients. We were ready for the competition. We matched our competitors with unrivaled products and services, we pursued them, and overcame them. We courted our customers based on their interest.

“Our vision is clear. Our mission statement is clear. Our reward system is good. Zenith is the best bank in the world. I won’t trade it for any place. I look back and I am surprised at our achievement so far. The leap is too great.”

Indeed, all of Zenith’s performance indicators have been improving remarkably each year. The value of its operating assets grew by 282% between 2007 and 2009. From GH¢ 140 million in 2007, it increased to GH¢ 368.3 million a year later and reached GH¢ 535.1 million at the end of 2009.

The bank’s share of industry assets rose from 2.1% in 2007 to 3.1% in 2008 and went up still to 4.1% in 2009. This saw it improve its industry ranking for this performance indicator from sixteenth to eighth over the period.

A similarly impressive run was recorded in Zenith’s share of industry deposits in the last three years. It accounted for 4.9% of industry deposits last year, a jump from 4.4% and 2.6% in 2008 and 2007 respectively. Overall, Zenith Bank had the 7th largest pool of deposits in the industry last year.

The bank’s profits have remained robust, while its efficiency benchmarks have looked considerably better year-after-year. Profit-before-tax margin of the bank averaged 36% in the last two years and, indeed, was two-fifths of total income in 2008. Its cost-to-income ratio has also declined significantly from above 80% in 2007 to about 50% at the end of 2009.

It is important to add, too, that Zenith bank has been increasing gradually its share of total industry loans and advances. The ratio has increased from 1.7% to 3.2% in three years.

To Mr. Kuuku Amos, Branch Head of Spintex Road Branch of Zenith Bank, who himself is a pioneer staff member, in spite of its laudable achievements, the outlook appears much brighter.

“It feels good looking at how far we have come. We have achieved a lot within a short period. The team at the very first day was very focused and dynamic. We had strong leadership who provided the right direction. At Zenith we believe in the fact that everyone should develop himself/herself. The bank always develops people. The culture of developing yourself is so crucial in the bank, and that sets a Zenith person apart from the rest in the industry.”

“I am not surprised at all at what we have achieved, it is within my expectation, and I believe that with the foundation that we have built I wont be surprised if we have what we have already done in the past five years in the next two years.

Source: BFT