Born November 4, 1951 at Agbor, in Ika South Local Government Area of Delta State, Mr. Ovia attended Southern University Louisiana, where he obtained a B.Sc in Business Administration in 1977 and North East Louisiana University, where he obtained a masters degree in Business Administration in 1979, both in United States of America. He is also an Alumnus of Harvard Business School (Executive Management Program). He started his banking career as a clerk at Barclays Bank, DCO, now Union Bank in 1973. In 1980 he joined International Merchant Bank (IMB) under the technical agreement of First National Bank of Chicago as a financial analyst and rose to senior manager position in 1987.
He headed corporate finance department of Merchant Bank of Africa, under the technical management of Bank of America from 1987 to 1990. He gained early experience in the use of computer in 1977 when he worked as a part-time computer operator at Baton Rouge Bank and Trust Company, Louisiana. He later changed status from employee –manager to owner – manager as he co-founded Zenith Bank. His assumption of duties as managing director of Zenith Bank Plc in 1990 has transformed the service and product delivery system in the banking industry .”
After opening a branch in Ghana, Jim Ovia opened another branch of Zenith Bank in London. The bank has a strategic alliance with respected US group, J.P. Morgan. The partnership with J.P. Morgan will enhance the development of Nigerian financial market and help to expand the stock exchange.
Under Jim Ovia for the third year running, the bank clinched the Web-Jurist award conducted by the website rating arm of Phillips Consulting. A research published by the Charted Institute of Bankers of Nigeria, CIIB, in collaboration with Mascot Communications Limited has rated Zenith Bank Plc topmost amongst banks that are socially responsible in the country. Named Bank of the Year in Nigeria for 2005, by Banker magazine, a subsidiary of the Financial Times of London, named the most security friendly and conscious bank in Nigeria for 2005 and ranked the fourth biggest bank in Nigeria, by the ranking of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN ), Zenith Bank with Mr. Ovia’s knowledge of computer technology became the first bank in Nigeria to introduce the online-real time system, which enables the whole branches to be networked through IT technology.
Jim Ovia who is also known as a motivational speaker, in April 1999 received the Zik Award for professional leadership and was in November 2000 conferred with the national award of Member of the Order of the Federal Republic (MFR). He is the Chairman of the Nigeria Software Development Initiative (NSDI) and also Chairman, National Information Technology Advisory Committee (NITAC). He is a member of the Governing Council, Nigerian Investment Promotion Council (NIPC) and also a member of the Honorary International Investor Council.
He is the founder and Chairman of Mankind United to Support Total Education (MUSTE), a philanthropic organization focused on providing scholarship for the less privileged, of which some of the beneficiaries are now qualified Medical Doctors, Lawyers, Engineers etc. Mr.
Ovia is also the founder of the ICT Foundation for Youth Empowerment, which focuses on improving the socio-economic welfare of Nigerian Youths by inspiring and motivating them to embrace Information and Communication Technology. He 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 the proprietor of University of Information and Communication Technology, Agbor, Delta State. He served on the board of American International School, Lagos (2001 – 2003).
He headed various Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO) at various times including being the first President of the Nigeria Internet Group (2001 – 2003); Business Day’s Award for the top 10 bankers in Nigeria and was among Vanguard’s 20 most outstanding CEO’s in corporate Nigeria in 2002. Mr. Ovia who has authored several published and unpublished works is in the vanguard of promotion and propagation of Information and Communication Technology in Nigeria.
Jim has since stepped down from the position of CEO of Zenith Bank after more than 10 years in the position based on CBN guidelines