top 10 best banks in Nigeria

Nigeria, as Africa’s largest economy, banks play a major role in the epicentre of that title. From the 18th century that saw the light of the very first modern bank in Nigeria -First Bank Nig Plc, banks have been springing up ever since.

The competition gets tougher, fuelled by stringent policies from the Central Bank of Nigeria. These policies are meant to keep banks from liquidating and make them thrive further. Banks that are falling short of the CBN’s standards are merging with other banks. This is to salvage their existence and in the process, strengthening their parent banks.

Overall, there are 21 registered banks in Nigeria. The list below is ranked based on their total asset base. Here, we present to you the top 10 banks in Nigeria.

1. Zenith Bank Nig Plc

Founded in 1990 by Jim Ovia, Zenith Bank rose on the platform of information technology amongst other backdrops to become the biggest bank in Nigeria in 2020. The bank beat her equals and other oldies in the financial sector to achieve this feat.

Headquartered in Victoria Island, Lagos, Nigeria, the bank operates in Ghana, Sierra Leone, UK and South Africa. It has Zenith Insurance, Zenith Pension Custodian, Zenith Securities, Zenith Trust Company and CyberSpace Network as part of its subsidiaries. The bank has a far-reaching network of branches in Nigeria and that number continues to soar. With an asset base of ₦5.955 trillion, Zenith indeed is the Zenith of all banks in Nigeria.

2. Ecobank 

Founded in 1985, Ecobank, which is officially known as Ecobank Transnational Inc., is Africa’s leading bank in terms of the network of branches. Little wonder it prides itself as a Pan-African banking conglomerate. It has banking operations in 36 sub-Saharan African countries – the highest recorded by any bank in Nigeria. It also has subsidiaries in Angola, Ethiopia, South Africa, South Sudan, China, Dubai, UK, France and South Africa.

Unlike other banks with a thing for Victoria Island in Lagos, Nigeria, Ecobank is headquartered in Lome, Togo. Being the largest Pan-African bank, Ecobank has over 19,500+ staff that attends to its staggering 13.7 million customers. 9.6 million of that figure comes from Nigeria. Mr Emmanuel Ikazoboh sits as chairman of the board. The total assets of Ecobank are worth ₦5.83 trillion. 

3. Access Bank Nig. Plc 

In 1989, Access Bank was birthed as a member of the Access Bank Group. It is a multinational commercial bank licensed by the Central Bank of Nigeria. Herbert Wigwe sits as the CEO of the board with over 9000 employees on the payroll of the bank.

In 2019, Access Bank had a merger with ailing Diamond Bank. The move was to salvage Diamond Bank from imminent liquidation. This would further strengthen Access Bank’s stand as a leading financial institution in Nigeria. Access Bank branches are littered across the lengths and breadths of Nigeria’s broad expanse and have branches in 8 sub-Saharan African nations. With a total assets base of ₦4.552 trillion.

4. United Bank for Africa (UBA)

One of the oldest banks in Nigeria comes in the acronym UBA. It was founded in 1949 with a lot of achievements tied to its name. Factually, UBA is the most decorated bank in Africa, coming first in many aspects of banking. Notably becoming the first bank in Nigeria to establish a cash deposit ATM and an Al-Led Virtual Banking Robot.

Headquartered in Lagos, Nigeria, it has subsidiaries in 20 African nations and in France, the UK and the USA. In 2005, UBA entered into a merger with Standard Trust Bank. And in 2006, it became the first bank in Nigeria to interconnect its 428 branch network in Africa at the time. Thus, it became the largest online real-time branch network in Africa. The bank has Tony Elumelu currently sitting at the helm. And boast of an asset base valued at ₦4.8 trillion. 

5. First Bank of Nigeria 

Founded in 1894 as Bank of British West Africa and renamed First Bank in 1979, First Bank is indeed the very first bank in Nigeria.

It has coveted the title of Nigeria’s biggest bank for years. And it still holds a monopoly to a category of that title namely – largest bank by deposits, gross earnings, largest retail client base and branch network.

Headquartered in Lagos, it has over 750 business locations across Africa and the United Kingdom, including offices in Abu Dhabi, Beijing and Johannesburg. Mrs Ibokun Awosika sits as chairman of the board. The bank enjoys patronage from over 10 million customers. Staffed by 7,000 employees. Its asset base is at ₦4.514 trillion. 

6. Guaranty Trust Bank (GTBank)

Popularly known as GTBank, the bank came into existence in 1988 when 35 young bright minds in their thirties decided to establish a banking brand from their ingenuity. The team was led by Tayo Aderinokun and Fola Adeola. So far, the prodigy of these Young Minds has led the bank to numerous achievements. One of the earliest was the bank being listed on the London Stock Exchange and Deutsche Borse making her the first in Nigeria to achieve that.

Over the last decade, GTBank has coveted the number 1 spot as the best bank in Nigeria, holding that position for 9 times. Just last year, it was adjudged the best bank in Africa at Euromoney Awards for Excellence in London. It leads in e-banking with 18 e-branches across Nigeria.

The bank has an employee base of 10,000 making it one of the largest in the country. GTBank is present in Kenya, Cote d’Ivoire, Tanzania, Ugandan, Rwanda, Ghana, UK, Liberia and the Gambia. Its headquarter is in Lagos, Nigeria. Total assets are at ₦3. 51 trillion.

7. Fidelity Bank Plc 

After being incorporated in 1987, Fidelity Bank Plc began full-fledged operations in 1988 with a merchant bank license. But would later assume a commercial bank status in 1999. The same year, it also became a Public Limited Company (Plc) from the private one it was at the onset. The bank has since then, risen to become one of the top banks in Nigeria with a few banking awards to its name.

In 2005, Fidelity Bank Plc acquired FBS International Bank and Manny Bank Plc to enlist itself in the list of the top 10 banks in Nigeria. With its headquarters in Lagos Nigeria, the bank operates an interconnected network of branches numbering up to 240 across all states and major cities in Nigeria. Currently, the bank serves up to 4.2 million customers across Nigeria. Fidelity Bank Plc has Mr Ernest Ebi sitting as chairman of the board. Its asset base is valued at ₦1.4 trillion. 

8. Sterling Bank 

Sterling Bank is one of Nigeria’s oldest with a lot of history. It was founded in 1960 as Nigeria Acceptances Limited (NAL). It then became the first licensed merchant bank in Nigeria in 1969.

Following a decree in the banking sector in 1972, the bank was acquired by the government. The government would, in 2000, sell off its residual interest in the bank, thus privatizing the bank. The name “Sterling Bank” came up as a result of a merger NAL had with three other Nigerian banks namely. These included Magnum Trust Bank, Indo-Nigerian Merchant Bank and Trust Bank of Africa. In 2011, Sterling Bank acquired Equatorial Trust Bank in a franchise and became a leading bank in Nigeria.

Headquartered in Lagos Nigeria, the bank has 179 branches spread across the country. Its total assets are approximately ₦1.10 trillion and Mr Asue Ighodalo sits as the board chairman.

9. Union Bank of Nigeria 

Union Bank has been in operations in Nigeria since 1917 when it was founded. Its history can be traced far back to 1836 when some British bankers received a royal charter from King William IV to carry out business in the Caribbean. The British bankers with the go-ahead formed a bank known as “Colonial Bank”. The bank would further be empowered to stretch its tentacles of operation beyond the Caribbean and into Africa and that led to the birth of the Colonial Bank in Nigeria in 1917. Port Harcourt, Lagos and Jos became pioneering cities for the bank.

In 1979, 40% of the bank was sold to individuals, ripping the bank off its government-owned status and changing its name to Union Bank of Nigeria. Union Bank has its presence across all states in Nigeria and has only two subsidiaries; UBN Property Company Limited in Nigeria and Union Bank London. Cyril Akporuere Odu is the Board Chairman. Total assets are at ₦1,381 billion.

10. Polaris Bank Limited (Formerly Skye Bank)

The name “Polaris” might sound new, but Skye bank certainly isn’t. Skye Bank was founded in 1989 as Prudent Bank Plc. However, in 2006, Prudent Bank and four other banks merged to form Skye Bank.

The bank was the first to introduce a naira dominated MasterCard known as MasterCard Verve. In 2014, Skye bank acquired Mainstreet Bank Limited. But Skye Bank would be hit by misfortune in 2018 when the CBN revoked its license and Polaris Bank Limited took over operations.

Polaris Bank’s headquarter is in Nigeria with subsidiaries in Angola, Equatorial Guinea, the Republic of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. In Nigeria, it has a branch network of 260 interlinked while being littered across parts of Nigeria. The chairman of the bank is Muhammad K. Ahmad and its total assets are at ₦611.5 billion.

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