Executives at Israel Discount Bank – the largest Israeli-owned bank in the United States – are now reconnecting to the bank’s roots and refocusing on new opportunities within Israel.
“Leveraging the potential synergies with Israel is a key priority of the bank,” says Israel Discount Bank of New York president and CEO Uri Levin. “Many businesspeople know we have a successful bank, but they don’t know how successful. We’ve always focused on being an American bank – under American management – with a Jewish culture and edge. And now is the time to reach out to Israel.”
With New York-based assets of $10 billion, IDB is much more robust internationally than its main Israeli competitors. That means IDB can be a banking partner here, either for American investors seeking opportunities in Israel, or for Israeli companies that want to grow overseas.
Specifically, IDB is looking to lend and invest in hi-tech companies, as well as help the dozens of Israeli firms that relocate operations to the US each year. “As the leading Israeli-owned bank in the US, we’re a strong gateway for Israeli corporate and private institutions,” says Levin. “We should be the go-to bank for the many Israeli tech companies that are moving to the US.”
For Levin, trust is a huge competitive advantage, with successful private and commercial banking clients in New York, California and Florida who could bank anywhere else, but who choose IDB for its service excellence and its Jewish and Israeli business culture.
Serving as the New York-based CEO since 2017, Levin, 45, has been with Discount Bank Ltd. in Israel since 2014, previously serving as chief financial officer, head of planning, strategy and financing. Earlier, he served in a number of high-level management positions with Bank Hapoalim, and as CEO at ISP Group in Israel and Switzerland. A graduate of the Israeli Air Force Aviation Academy, Levin went on to study engineering and computer science at Tel Aviv University before earning his MBA at the London Business School.IDB’s growth strategy
These days, Levin is overseeing the bank’s five-year growth strategy, which includes providing banking services for Israel’s highly respected cybersecurity and technology sectors. The bank is also focusing on such industries as real estate, healthcare and the not-for-profit sector; expanding its role as a trusted wealth management firm; and guiding Israeli investors who seek to penetrate the American market but need a local partner.
At the same time, many savvy Jewish-American clients who bank at IDB want to invest in the Jewish state – from buying promising Israeli-related stocks to participating in merger-and-acquisition opportunities.
“As the largest Israeli-owned bank in the US, we can be the gateway, helping businesses and investors cross the Atlantic,” Levin explained.
Building on a strong foundation
IDB’s roots in the US are deep, an attractive legacy for Israeli clients. Establishing a representative office on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan in 1949, IDB later became one of the first foreign banks to open a branch in New York. It is licensed by the State of New York as a full-service commercial bank and a member of the FDIC.
Today, IDB is among the 25 largest commercial banks in the New York metropolitan area, while its parent company, Discount Bank Ltd., runs some 260 branches across Israel.
In 2018, IDB delivered another year of solid performance and growth, with an all-time record profit of $96 million and a 10% return on equity – generated by its commitment to clients, solid capital position, well-managed balance sheet, strong risk infrastructure, and its ability to adapt to changes in the market.
As a result, IDB continues to receive high marks from US ratings agencies. Kroll Bond Rating Agency’s analysis of IDB, for example, resulted in a deposit rating of A-, senior unsecured debt rating of A, subordinated debt rating of BBB+, and a short-term deposit and debt rating of K2.
“We are proud that IDB has once again received these high investment-grade ratings,” Levin says, “which reaffirm not only our financial strength but also our ability to deliver the highest-quality banking services to our customers.”
As part of its strategic plan, IDB is also incorporating new IT systems to enhance operational efficiency, including the introduction of robotic process automation.
“Essentially, we are building on a strong foundation to serve our clients with even greater distinction in the days ahead,” Levin says, citing four areas of focus: great financials, a great reputation with clients, great people (a competitive advantage), and a great platform for change (ready for new opportunities).
“We know our clients’ needs are growing and changing, especially as a new generation makes its mark in the business world,” Levin explains. “We can continue meeting their needs and building on our trusted relationships by understanding their goals, anticipating their challenges, and providing timely expertise and new and targeted financial products. This is especially true as we forge new relationships in Israel.”
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