Bank Hapoalim looks to expand business with Turkey

Growing involvement comes despite shaky political relations; Hapoalim still sees Turkey as a major focus for future business.

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 attendance.
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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 expand.”
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 events.
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.”