Turkish flag 58 AP.
(photo credit: Associated Press)
WASHINGTON – Despite recent tensions between Ankara and Jerusalem, Bank
Hapoalim still sees Turkey as a major focus for future business.
A top Hapoalim executive stressed the importance of Turkey, alongside
the US, UK and Switzerland for Hapoalim during a breakfast the company
held Sunday for leading bankers from around the world on the sidelines
of the International Monetary Fund’s annual meeting in Washington this
past weekend. Turkish bankers working with Hapoalim were among those in
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“No doubt this is a difficult time between the countries,” Yair Seroussi, chairman of Bank Hapoalim’s board of directors, told The Jerusalem Post
following the event. But he said that his working relationships there
remain strong and “we think there is an opportunity in this market to
He noted, “At the moment, we feel comfortable to continue.”
The Turkish bankers were joined by CEOs and other high officials from
banks from Switzerland, Australia and many EU countries, all of whom
were treated to a pitch for doing business with the bank that focused
more on a different topic – Israel itself.
“The crisis really affected us less than other countries,” Seroussi told
the audience, pointing to its 4 percent growth this last year, deficits
and an unemployment rate lower than the US and EU and consumer
confidence higher than most of the world. The presentation also included
statistics on Israel’s high performance, such as being the first in per
capita R&D investment, Nobel Prizes and medical patents worldwide.
Such a focus on a bank’s nationality rather than its own services and
success – though both were mentioned by Seroussi – is rare at such
But Seroussi explained that Israel’s economic position at a time of international crisis is one of its best selling points.
“Banks are very much affected by the macroeconomics of the country,” he told the Post
“They need to know we are very strong and growing and that our economy
is doing better than most of the economies in the world.”
Israel isn’t the only place to benefit from its strong showing. Hashim
Shawa, chairman of the Bank of Palestine, said that “good news for
Hapoalim is good news for us.”
Shawa, who was also at Sunday’s event, noted that “The Palestinian and
Israeli economies are very much tied, so what happens just a few
kilometers across the border reflect on us for better or worse.”
Since Palestinians use the shekel, they need to work with banks such as
Hapoalim. Shawa said that Bank of Palestine enjoys an “extremely good”
relationship with Hapoalim and Bank of Israel Governor Stanley Fischer,
despite difficulties stemming from government policies, particularly
when it comes to Gaza.
Despite the ups and downs in the political situation since the
cooperation began in the 1980s, he said, “We haven’t seen any negative
impact on our banking and our relationship with Hapoalim.”