How Jim Ovia Rose from Bank Clerk To a Bank Owner

Last updated on April 5th, 2022 at 11:43 am


Born on November 4, 1957, Jim Ovia is a Nigerian entrepreneur, motivational speaker, and author. Zenith Bank PLC is Nigeria’s most valuable bank with a market valuation of N789. 62 billion as of December 2021 and one of the largest banks in Africa.


  • Full Name: Jim James Ovia
  • Date of Birth: November 4, 1951
  • State of Origin: Delta
  • Wife: Kay Ovia
  • No of children: 5
  • Business interest: Banking

He was the oldest of eight children. Agbor-Obi who happens to be his father is a famous chief in the Agbor Kingdom of Delta State.


Ovia completed his secondary school at the Ika Grammar School in Bojiboji-Owa before travelling in pursuit of quality education to complete his undergraduate studies. In 1977, he earned a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from Southern University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, the United States, and a Master of Science in Business Administration from the University of Louisiana in Monroe, Louisiana, the USA. He is also an alumnus of Harvard Business School.


Early Career:

When Jim Ovia was a young man, his uncle inspired him to pursue a career in business administration, which he did. In 1973, Ovia began her career as a clerk at Union Bank, previously Barclays Bank.

He had just graduated from high school at the time he took the offer as a clerk, which we can say gave him an insight into the banking system.  He worked as a bank clerk for three years before migrating to the United States, where he earned his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees.

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He gained an interest in computer science and information technology. He was a part-time computer operator at the defunct Baton Rouge Bank and Trust Company.

He joined Union Bank after graduation to satisfy his National Youth Service Corps service obligation (NYSC). He also worked for Lion Bank in Lagos, where he climbed to the branch manager’s position.

Jim Ovia joined International Merchant Bank (IMB) in 1980 as a financial analyst and was promoted to bank manager within a year of joining the firm. He made a transition from IMB to Merchant Bank of Africa, where he established a profitable corporate section from the ground up.

Entrepreneurial Journey

Zenith Bank was founded in 1990 by Jim Ovia and a group of investors after the banking industry was liberalized under Babangida’s regime. He served as the bank’s CEO for 20 years before resigning in July 2010. In 2014, he was reappointed to his position as bank chairman in the year 2014.

Jim Ovia has achieved great success in Nigeria and Anglophone West Africa with Zenith bank under his supervision.

The bank’s headquarters is located in Victoria Island, Lagos, and it has more than 500 branches and offices all around the nation.

On the Nigerian Stock Exchange and the London Stock Exchange, Zenith Bank became a public limited company in 2001.

Zenith Bank PLC was granted a license by the UK Financial Services Authority (FSA) on April 27th, 2007, making Zenith Bank UK Limited the first Nigerian bank to receive such a license in 25 years. There are branches of the bank in Ghana, Sierra Leone, Gambia, South Africa, and China, as well.

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To put it another way, Jim Ovia had converted Zenith Bank from an unassuming commercial bank into a financial services giant.

Other Investments

In addition to banking, the founder of Zenith Bank is passionate in cutting-edge technologies. In 1995, he launched Cyberspace Network Limited, a company specializing in Internet security.

As a pioneer in Nigeria’s internet services, Cyberspace Network Limited is well-known. It delivers software and network services, including 4G LTE, CYBER MAX, and METRONET, to its customers.

A Nigerian cellular network company, Visafone Communications Limited, was also launched by him in 2007. The company was bought by MTN in 2015. Over 3 million people were on Visafone’s roster prior to its takeover.

Additionally, Ovia is a professional writer and a sought-after motivational speaker.

Philanthropic activities

In 1998, Jim Ovia founded the Jim Ovia Foundation, a non-profit organization in Nigeria, because he recognized the importance of education in his own success. Investing in the potential of the Nigerian youth is the goal of the Jim Ovia Foundation, which aims to help the country thrive economically.

He believes that investing in Nigeria’s young would boost the country’s economy and increase the quality of life for its citizens.

The James Hope College, Jim Ovia Scholarship, Jim Ovia ICT Entrepreneurs Program, and Empower Youth Program are all part of the Jim Ovia Foundation.

Since 2002, over 1,500 students have received university scholarships, and over 3,500 young people have been given the opportunity to succeed. The ICT skills of more than 500 entrepreneurs have also been strengthened.

Professional Roles:

In June 2014, four years after Jim stepped down as CEO of Zenith Bank PLC, he was named Chairman, Boards of Directors, and non-executive Director.

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NSDI, the National Information Technology Advisory Council (NITAC), Quantum Markets Limited, and Cyberspace Network Limited are a few of the organizations he serves on as chairman.

Members of the National Economic Management Team of Nigeria, Lagos State University’s Governing Council, and the Digital Bridge Institute (DBI).

Additionally, Jim Ovia is a member of the Honorary International Investor Council and the Redeemer’s University for Nations Board of Trustees.

He also has dozens of awards, some of them are Vanguard’s 20 Most Outstanding CEO’s in Corporate Nigeria in 2002, Africa’s Business Leader at Africa American Institute Awards in 2017 among others.

Collection of Cars

Jim Ovia keeps his personal goods, notably his automobiles, out of the public eye. Rolls Royce Phantoms and Mercedes G-Wagons, and Armoured Lexus GX 460

are among his opulent automobiles.

Marriage and Children

Jim Ovia is happily married to Kay Ovia, the CEO of Quantum Markets Ltd and the founder of the Star Rising Talent Hunt for children and young adults. The union is blessed with five children, they are:

  1. Isioma,
  2. Zephia,
  3. Tito,
  4. Tomi
  5. Jesse

Net Worth

Jim Ovia’s net worth is estimated at $1 billion. He is also the largest shareholder in Zenith Bank. The bank is the most profitable bank as of December 2021. It is listed on the Premium Board of the Nigerian Exchange. Zenith has a market capitalisation of NGN797,470,942,164.40 (January 26, 2022)


Success is not a day job, it takes dedicated efforts, undying spirit to reach the peak of the ladder. This is the story of a village boy who rose from being a clerk in the bank to owning the most profitable bank in Nigeria.

Featured Image:

  • Jimovia.com

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