In his statement, the Founder and Chairman of Zenith Bank Plc, Mr Jim Ovia, CON, thanked the shareholders for their unflinching loyalty, which has enabled the bank to rise to the pinnacle of the nation's financial services industry, and assured them of the bank's commitment to consistently deliver superior value to them.
Speaking on the bank's performance, the Group Managing Director/Chief Executive, Mr Ebenezer Onyeagwu, said: "if you look at the bank's history over the years, Zenith Bank has always grown, and even within the pandemic, we have maintained a reasonable positive growth trajectory. Growth is coming from the fact that we are deploying our digital capability to grow more businesses, simplify our service processes, make our processes more efficient, and deal with customers' complaints. Apart from developing new products, we are discovering new business verticals, especially within the retail segment, which have significant revenue.” He added that: “meeting the expectation of shareholders means we have to work harder. The team is dodged, hardworking, resilient, and above all, we have a very supportive board that comes with superior guidance".
Commenting on the dividend payout, the Chairman Emeritus of the Independent Shareholders Association of Nigeria (ISAN), Sir Sunny Nwosu, expressed the delight of shareholders over the consistent payment of dividends by Zenith Bank, noting that the bank's shares remain the toast of investors because the bank has never failed to pay dividends to shareholders.
Also speaking on behalf of shareholders, the President of the Association of the Rights of Nigerian Shareholders (AARNS), Dr Faruk Umar, said: "The bank is doing very well. All the ratios and indices have gone up. And more importantly, while we were in the meeting, I got my alert of the credit of my dividend. This is very commendable. The leadership of the bank has been very effective; we thank Jim Ovia for the leadership he has been giving, he has increased the dividend in spite of the economic hardship in the country, and I believe the GMD is doing very well. I commend the management and staff of the bank, including the board, and I am very confident that this year would also be very good for the bank." Dr Faruk Umar also commended the Group Managing Director for the numerous awards the bank received in 2021, especially the sustainability awards.
In spite of a challenging macroeconomic environment aggravated by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Zenith Bank Group achieved year-on-year (YoY) growth in gross earnings of 10% from NGN696.5 billion reported in the previous year to N765.6billion. This was on the back of a 23% YoY growth in non-interest income from N251.7billion to N309billion and a 2% YoY growth in interest income from N420.8billion to NGN427.6billion.
Profit before tax also grew by 10%, from NGN255.9 billion to NGN280.4 billion in the current year. The increase was due to growth in the top-line and very strong management of the treasury portfolio that increased efficiency, resulting in a drop in interest expense by 12% from NGN121.1 billion in 2020 to NGN106.8 billion in the current year. This further led to a 7% increase in net interest income of NGN320.8 billion in 2021 from NGN299.7 billion in 2020.
Customer deposits increased by 21%, growing from NGN5.34 trillion in the previous year to NGN6.47 trillion in the current year. The growth in customer deposits came from both corporate and retail customers. Retail deposits grew by NGN146 billion from NGN1.72 trillion in 2020 to NGN1.87 trillion in 2021. The Group's continuous drive for retail deposits combined with the strategic rebalancing of its funding base helped to reduce the cost of funding from 2.1% to 1.5% in the current year. Although operating expenses grew by 13% YoY, growth remains below the inflation rate, and the Group improved its Earnings per Share (EPS) which grew by 6% from NGN7.34 to NGN7.78.
Total assets increased by 11%, growing from NGN8.48 trillion in 2020 to NGN9.45 trillion in 2021, mainly driven by growth in customer deposits. With the steady recovery in economic activities, the Group prudently grew its gross loans by 20%, from NGN2.9 trillion in 2020 to NGN3.5 trillion in 2021, with moderated NPL ratio from 4.29% to 4.19% YoY. The Group recorded impressive liquidity and capital adequacy ratios of 71.6% and 21.0%, which remained above regulatory thresholds of 30% and 15%, respectively.
In recognition of its track record of excellent performance, Zenith Bank was voted as Best Commercial Bank in Nigeria in the World Finance Banking Awards 2021, Best Bank in Nigeria in the Global Finance World's Best Banks Awards 2020 and 2021, Bank of the Year (Nigeria) in The Banker's Bank of the Year Awards 2020, and Best in Corporate Governance 'Financial Services' Africa 2020 and 2021 by the Ethical Boardroom. Also, the bank emerged as the Most Valuable Banking Brand in Nigeria in the Banker Magazine Top 500 Banking Brands 2020 and 2021, Number One Bank in Nigeria by Tier-1 Capital in the "2021 Top 1000 World Banks" Ranking by The Banker Magazine and the Retail Bank of the year at the BusinessDay Banks and Other Financial Institutions (BOFI) Awards 2020 and 2021.
Similarly, Zenith Bank was honoured as Bank of the Decade (People's Choice) at the ThisDay Awards 2020 and emerged winner in four categories at the Sustainability, Enterprise, and Responsibility (SERAS) Awards 2021, carting home the awards for "Best Company in Reporting and Transparency", "Best Company in Infrastructure Development", "Best Company in Gender Equality and Women Empowerment", and the coveted "Most Responsible Organisation in Africa.