“The hi-tech industry is distinctly different from all other industries, and therefore providing banking services to the hi-tech world should be part of an entire array of additional services because it is an industry with its own needs, its own language and its own DNA,” explains Miri Ashkenazy, business development manager of the hi-tech system at Bank Hapoalim.
And she knows what she is talking about. Prior to joining Poalim Hi-Tech, Ashkenazy managed the hi-tech banking of Bank Hapoalim through the “Hagalim” branch in Herzliya Pituah, which operates in an industrial zone that she defines as an “absolute hi-tech environment.”
Under her management, the bank provided banking services to many hi-tech companies – from start-ups to large technology businesses. In her current position at the bank’s headquarters, Ashkenazy and her colleagues focus on “Poalim Hi-Tech,” headed by Yossi Vinitsky, in recruiting and escorting start-up in Israel’s Start-up Nation, and around the world.
When asked how and where the difference in service to start-up companies differs from “ordinary” companies in traditional industries, Ashkenazy explains: “We provide hi-tech entrepreneurs with a one-stop shop service, with a contact person available from anywhere and in any language,” she says, “so that the entrepreneur who works with him can contact him by email, phone or WhatsApp 24/7, and he’ll fix any problems that arise, from A to Z. This is an important part of the dynamics of work with start-ups.”
In addition, “What distinguishes our service to the hi-tech field from other fields is the fact that we develop and create a lot of contacts for the entrepreneur in the industry. And we are also connected to all the leading incubators and funds in the industry in Israel with business and social connections of all kinds, which is part of the network culture that is very characteristic of hi-tech.”
What else distinguishes the start-up companies from other companies?
“From a financial point of view, these are companies that spend most of their finances on research and on innovative technological developments. These companies are usually not known at the outset but are engaged in developing and raising funds for further development. Beyond that, the entire hi-tech sector works, as stated, in the networking method, which is a huge and significant change compared to the traditional industries.”
“Hi-Tech networking is expressed first in the development of a network of connections with various industry entities through cooperation, joint events, conferences and meetings, and the idea is that you become part of the ecosystems, that is, from the business environment of the product or the technology. What distinguishes the hi-tech networking circles is the giving and connections you make, and donating without expecting immediate compensation, because you know that someday you will get it back. In the sense of ‘Ship your grain across the sea; after many days you may receive a return.’
“To me, the cooperative economy, the giving and the connections are amazing, creating a win-win situation for all sides. When you see it happening in front of your eyes, it’s impressive. And whoever does not behave like that, by the way, will find himself out of the game.”
And does this networking prove itself in the bottom line?
“The entire hi-tech industry in Israel and around the world is engaged in a network of giving and assistance, which is my mind is one of the main factors for its success, and I call it ‘the economy of abundance.’ Here, one plus one plus one is much more than three. It’s just bigger and more correct and also creates long-term success.
“In contrast to the ordinary industries where each side wants to know how much it earns and what it gets out of it now, in the hi-tech field, the mindset is: ‘Maybe right now I will not make a profit, and you will benefit because I helped you, but in the future it will return to everyone - and everyone will benefit.’
“This is the discourse. Beyond that, the importance of networking is in cooperation and transparency, since everything is visible on social networks. Everyone knows. There is nothing to hide and there is no room for quarrels and manipulations by methods that are not visible. Positive networking is the world of the present and tomorrow. “
FOR NEARLY four years, Ashkenazy has been at the head of the business development of Poalim Hi-Tech, essentially since its founding. In recent years she has been advancing in the field she calls “developing business in a reality that changes every moment,” in which she is recruiting and accompanying dozens of promising young start-ups in Israel and around the world. As part of providing a complete package for customers in this unique field, hi-tech bankers are spread out in 10 of the bank’s branches throughout the country, who provide services only to start-ups and entrepreneurs, understanding their language, DNA and needs.
“Our hi-tech bankers know how to accompany the start-ups all the way, and the bank even wrote a supportive credit policy for the move,” adds Ashkenazy. “In addition, we are investing in venture capital funds through Bank Hapoalim’s investment arm Poalim Capital Markets,
“At the same time, there is the bank’s Innovation Division, which tracks the companies we recruit in various fields, such as medicine, Internet or cyber. Here we find many companies in the field of fintech, meaning that they deal with technological developments for financial systems. For the Innovation Division, for example, there are many different start-ups that can help the division."
And this is a kind of message that the bank projects.
“It’s true, because the bank is saying, ‘I’m not the only one with the knowledge, it’s also coming from outside, and I want to bring it to me.’ This also creates a situation in which the same start-up could be a provider of innovation in Bank Hapoalim and a bank customer at the same time.”
What unique services do you provide to those customers?
“The usual examples are to connect them with other investors and service providers. For example, my job is to recruit customers for the bank. That’s what I do. And when a very serious body refers me to a hi-tech customer, it’s not because of my beautiful eyes, or because he wants me to refer to him other customers. He will do this because we are sitting in his product basket as an option he recommends. Now, in the hi-tech field, if I give that customer a service that is not the best, then for me I burned this channel with the customer and with the referral body. In this field you always need to work at your maximum.
We talked about the uniqueness of the hi-tech field, but it appears that the generation of those working in it, developers and entrepreneurs, also has its own characteristics and demands that are unlike any other field in the past.
“Because it’s a new industry both in its thinking and in its technological work. 100% of those who work in this field are very high-quality people, geniuses in development, and even if they do not understand economics or management, they will know to hire a professional from outside. And besides, those in the field also have their DNA, which centers on the principle of collaboration and connections between people. I can say that I, too, conduct myself according to this mindset, which leads the field to great successes in the world.”
Would you define the current hi-tech generation as more valuable than the generations before it?
“This is a generation that is sharp, caring and values-oriented, which knows how to support others and social associations, with an emphasis on an ecological agenda for the preservation of the planet, a generation that expects all the bodies and organizations in its environment to speak in this language. The basis for successful cooperation in this generation will always be credibility, integrity and compliance with timetables. From my experience in banking with all other industries, I would be happy if they all spoke in the same language as the hi-tech industry, with such real and transparent connections between people. It would be better for the whole world and for us.”
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