Early Life and Education
Jim Ovía was born in Agbor, Delta State, on November 4, 1951. After he finished his secondary education, Jim’s got service from the Ikeja branch of Barclays Bank where he held the position of a clerical officer. Jim’s worked in the bank for several years before he moved to the USA. The future businessman got admitted into the Southern University, Louisiana, and began studying Business Administration in 1977.
Jim Ovia moved ahead to obtain his master degree at the University of Louisiana in Monroe in the year 1979. Jim’s biggest achievement in the academic field is undoubtedly him being an alumnus of the Harvard Business School. All these institutions gave Jim a lot of knowledge and experience but the most challenging task was ahead.
After bagging his educational accolades from the United State, he returned to Nigeria, for greener pasture and exploiting himself. He was hired to work in Lion Bank and where he was later became the manager of one of the bank’s branches in Lagos. Soon after that, he joined the International Merchant Bank and got promoted from the position of a financial analyst to manager.
Jim also gained some knowledge and expertise in Information Technology when he worked at Baton Rouge Bank and Trust Company as a part-time computer operator.
After the deregulation of the banking sector in the 1980s, Jim Ovia cooperated with some other partners and applied for a banking license. In May 1990, 20 shareholders founded Zenith International bank and Jim Ovia started to move in a completely different direction.
The Birth of Zenith Bank
Ovia founded Zenith Bank in 1990 and was the CEO up until 2010 when he retired and conferred the title of chairman to someone else. He initiated a lot of significant innovations to the Nigerian banking sector with his knowledge and experience. Under his tutelage Zenith bank was set up to become one of the largest and most profitable banks in Africa. Zenith bank expanded over the years and established operations in countries outside Nigeria, countries like; Sierra Leona, Ghana, South Africa, the Gambia and the United Kingdom.
Speaking On How Things Were When They Started ZENITH Bank:
“When we started Zenith in 1990, it was extremely difficult as the necessary resources and infrastructure to do business, particularly banking, were not in place. There were no ATMs, no mobile phones and ICT was a rarely known concept in the business space,” he says.
“When, in 1990, banking licenses were being issued, indigenous private individuals were being offered the opportunity to set up financial institutions, Prior to that, you either needed to be a foreign global financial institution, or a federal or state government institution, to own or set up a bank in Nigeria. Businesses and entrepreneurs could not possibly get these licenses because of the prerequisites attached. It was perceived then, that Nigeria did not have the technical expertise to run or manage banks.”
Besides his considerable achievements in the banking industry, Jim Ovia is also a seasoned business executive in the telecommunications and technology arenas. He is the founder of Visafone Communications Ltd. – a Nigerian telecommunication company which was voted as ‘The Best ICT Company’ and ‘The Best Telecom Brand’ in Nigeria in 2008. As in 2016 Visafone has over three million subscribers.
Philanthropy and Sponsorship
As a noted philanthropist Jim Ovia has been in charge of several NGOs including the Nigeria Internet Group. In his personal capacity Ovia founded the Jim Ovia Foundation, Mankind United to Support Total Education and the Youth Empowerment/ICT Foundation. The Jim Ovia Foundation was launched with the aim of running programs that nurture upliftment of underprivileged youths through social and educational initiatives. MUSTE is a charity organisation with the goal of providing educational scholarships for underprivileged students. Youth Empowerment/ICT Foundation is geared for improving the economic and social welfare of young people in Nigeria by inspiring them to embrace IT and communication technology.
Honours, Memberships and Titles
His professional achievements have led to Ovia being given several honours, memberships, and titles and receiving national honour in Nigeria. His titles include;
- The Chairman of the National Information Technology,
- The Chairman of the Nigerian Software Development Initiative.
- He holds memberships to the Digital Bridge Institute and the Honorary International Investor Council
- The Chairman of Cyberspace Network Limited.
- Ovia is also a member of the Board of Trustees at the Redeemer’s University for Nations,
- A member of the Governing Council of Lagos State University
- Previously a member of the Governing Council of the Nigerian Investment Promotion Commission.
- He also previously served as a board member of the American International School of Lagos.
Jim Ovia was born in 1951 in Nigeria. He achieved a Master’s degree in Business Administration and a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Business Administration in the United States from the University of Louisiana and Southern University, also in Louisiana. Ovia is married, has two children and owns major real estate holdings across Nigeria. He has a net worth of around US$550 million and as in 2016 is considered as the 37th wealthiest person in Africa.
Billionaire mogul, Jim Ovia is expanding his business empire. His 15- storey office complex is almost ready. Valued at about N4bn, the gargantuan building being constructed by G Cappa is called The Civic Centre Towers. It’s on Ozumba Mbadiwe Road, Victoria Island, Lagos.
The imposing structure was initially promoted as a hospitality facility, being the dividend of a partnership deal between Jim Ovia’s Quantum Luxury Properties and Marriot Hotel Group. But when ENCOMIUM Weekly called at the water front construction site on Thursday, September 4, 2014,our reporter saw a sign board describing the intimidating structure as The Civic Towers, a 15-storey office complex.
It would be remembered that the billionaire ex-banker, Mr. Jim Ovia in 2012 announced plans to bring the prestigious Marriott Hotels brand to Nigeria following the multi-billion naira agreement signed by Quantum Luxury Properties Limited (Quantum Capital) which he chairs and Marriott Hotels.