Yael Dromi .
(photo credit: Courtesy)
A few months ago, Bank Hapoalim and the nonprofit organization Access Israel teamed up to run an exceptional workshop for people with disabilities. A group of individuals – some blind, deaf or in wheelchairs – joined a group of Bank Hapoalim staff at the bank’s Tel Aviv headquarters. The employees and their guests worked together to perform various banking tasks in order to instill in the banking staff the acute challenges that people with physical disabilities face in this modern world.
“Over the next few years, we will be focusing more and more on making our bank – and Israeli society as a whole – more accessible for people with disabilities,” said Yael Dromi, head of the bank’s stakeholders Division and former communications consultant and senior economic editor.
The Jerusalem Post asked Dromi to explain more.
How does this mission of making the bank more accessible affect day-to-day operations at the various Bank
Hapoalim branches across Israel?
Dromi: We try to ensure that all our branches and services are accessible for wheelchair-bound individuals, as well as those with other forms of mobility impairment. Bank Hapoalim staff have undergone special training to help assist these individuals. For example, tellers know to offer our blind clients documents written in Braille and to give people with special needs high priority, so they don’t have to wait in line. The bank’s website and online documents are fully accessible to the visually impaired. Furthermore, Bank Hapoalim has made concerted efforts to increase diversity among its own staff. To that end, the bank has hired several employees with disabilities.
Who are these “stakeholders” for whom the bank created a special division?
Every individual who contacts the bank influences our practices: clients, employees, service providers, investors, the general public, public service organizations, low income families and others. As such, Bank Hapoalim created this division two and a half years ago, and we believe we are the only bank that has such a division. In other words, Bank Hapoalim thought that dialogue with members of its community was so important, that it warranted establishing an entire new division, headed by a member of our management team, who could represent the voice of the customers around the management table. We are constantly seeking new ways to integrate people with disabilities both within our own banking system and within society at large.
Can you give me an example?
Last October, we held an employment fair geared toward people with disabilities. It all started when Bank Hapoalim CEO Arik Pinto received a text message from a young woman with disabilities, Nurit Peleg Wolberg. It read: “I have a dream that one day I will organize a job fair for people like me, where they will be able to find good, solid jobs in leading companies.” Arik decided this was something we must pursue, so we organized a job fair at Tel Aviv University and asked 33 of the largest private and public businesses to take part. It was a huge success. Some 350 people with disabilities participated. They went from booth to booth and shared their resumes with potential employers. Even Bank Hapoalim hired seven individuals who applied for positions at that fair.
How do you go about recruiting businesses and public organizations to cooperate with the bank?
We’ve been partnering for years with social organizations such as Access Israel and Beit Issie Shapiro. Sometimes we approach them with an idea for cooperation, and other times these organizations come to us to request support for specific projects. We examine the projects to determine whether they fit our social welfare priorities, such as aiding the elderly, assisting people with disabilities or helping youth living in the periphery find gainful employment. We’ve partnered with Israel Kasirer’s WheelShare, in which people can “rent” a wheelchair for free for eight hours. There are countless other examples.
What is the bank’s second major focus when it comes to activities on behalf of the community?
In the immediate future, we plan to focus heavily on Israel’s senior population and how we can help them acclimate to this new, digital world. Many older people find it very challenging to keep up as the world shifts from the physical to the digital. This is happening not only at banks but also at government offices and in the medical world. Today, activities are carried out on the phone or via the Internet. If you are not connected to this world, you suffer tremendously. In addition to not being able to take advantage of these digital services, which are usually more accessible and economical, people also feel alone, as they have fewer ways to reach out and make contact. This is not just a problem in Israel, of course. It is an international challenge. We heard how much the older population is suffering and decided to take on helping them navigate the digital world, whether they are our clients or not. We have plans to open several training centers this year that will offer courses run by partner NGOs, volunteers and Hapoalim Campus counselors. The classes will focus not only on how to use Bank Hapoalim’s application or our other digital services but also how to navigate other popular digital platforms such as Facebook, Google or YouTube.
It sounds like this is a challenge that extends beyond the normal functions of a bank.
We feel obligated to help this sector of the community, on the one hand to help these people navigate the digital world in general, and on the other to help them take advantage of our online banking services so that they do not have to schlep to the bank so often. We are focusing on running these programs in communities with a high concentration of elderly residents. We are investing a significant amount of capital in this program, which we are calling Working toward Digital Independence, a play on words in Hebrew, so that we can truly make a difference in the community.
Tell me a little bit more about the stakeholders Division that you head.
The division has 100 employees and handles the bank’s communication with different pockets of society, clients and non-clients. Our division includes the Center for Social Banking, which oversees most of our community-related projects, such as giving out some NIS 40 million in donations to various causes and coordinating the bank’s volunteer activities. It is important to point out that Bank Hapoalim has more than 3,000 employees who volunteer after working hours on a regular basis.
We also handle all customer-facing activity on our social networks, handle all public inquiries and operate our new Customer Insights Center, which collects all the feedback we receive from customers. This information helps us understand which areas of our work still need improvement.
Furthermore, our division houses the bank’s new Employee and Manager Training Center, under whose auspices one of Israel’s most impressive start-ups was established – The Center for Financial Growth. This center conducts financial workshops all over the country for individuals and small business owners, regardless of whether or not they are Bank Hapoalim clients. In these workshops, participants learn how to manage family accounts, mortgages and pensions. They receive training that enables them to prepare pricing strategies and digitally market their products and services. More than 9,000 individuals have already successfully completed one of our courses.
How did someone with a background in media and editing end up in a position like this at such a large bank?
After I left my position as editor of Yediot Aharonot, where I edited the paper’s economic section, I established my own content writing company. Bank Hapoalim was one of my clients. In that capacity, I became well acquainted with the organization and with CEO Arik Pinto. A year ago, when the position of manager of the stakeholders Division became available, Arik offered it to me. He presented me with the tremendous challenge of leading this division, and I am greatly honored to have the opportunity to play such a significant role at such a prestigious institution like Bank Hapoalim. I feel privileged to represent an organization that feels such a deep responsibility to improve Israeli society – more so than any other business I have worked with or encountered. There is no doubt that joining the team at Bank Hapoalim has been an exceptionally dramatic and gratifying change in my life.
As part of its goal to strengthen its relationship with the community, Bank Hapoalim has launched a project to promote accessibility for people with disabilities and promote digital literacy for older adults. The bank believes that dialogue with the community is so important, that it has established a whole division, headed by a member of the management team, whose sole role is to represent the client’s voice.
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