Zenith Bank United Kingdom (UK), a subsidiary of Zenith Bank Plc, one of Nigeria's biggest banks, has commenced operation in London following approval by UK Financial Securities Authority (FSA).
BusinessWeek gathered that FSA gave the bank approval to open for business in the UK having met all its requirements, including professionalism as well as the requisite paid-up capital for new banks.
The approval of a banking licence for Zenith by the UK authority represents a strong endorsement of the brand as it is the first wholly-owned Nigerian bank without any previous affiliation to a UK financial institution to be issued such a licence.
It is believed that operating from London, an international financial hub, Zenith Bank UK would serve as the bank's launch-pad into other parts of Europe and the rest of the world.
Zenith Bank Plc is one of Nigeria's biggest financial institutions with many interests in pension and insurance. Its entry into the European financial market is interpreted as a strategic move to deepen the bank's base and grow the brand. The bank already has a strategic alliance with respected United States group, J.P. Morgan Chase.
BusinessWeek learnt that the bank is the second most capitalised company on the Nigeria Stock Exchange with a market capitalisation of US$2.9 billion.
Recently, the bank was adjudged the most customer-focused bank in Nigeria from a survey by foremost consulting firm KPMG, which targeted corporate customers of banks including companies in a variety of sectors and found that they were most satisfied with the services rendered by Zenith Bank. Its subsidiary in Ghana, Zenith Bank Ghana Limited, recently held its Annual General Meeting and reported a very impressive financial performance.
BusinessWeek gathered that the bank recorded about 359 percent increase in its balance sheet, from ¢141 billion in 2005 to ¢647 billion at the end of 2006 year.
Its deposits also increased - by 2,054 percent from about ¢26 billion in 2005 to ¢560 billion in 2006. By this programme, the bank succeeded in increasing its share of the Ghanaian market significantly.
At the AGM held in Accra recently, the group's managing director and chief executive officer, Jim Ovia, announced that the bank would soon open a representative office in Johannesburg, South Africa.