With the banks having successfully implemented credit limits on their customer accounts, research company Forrester is hailing the alert service introduced by Bank Hapoalim as setting global standards for the banking industry. "What started out as a service designed to meet a regulatory requirement has morphed into a powerful client service that helps define the bank as a customer advocate," Forrester Research analyst Cliff Condon wrote in his report. Forrester said that since Hapoalim launched its "Poalim on time" service last November, which notifies clients about the overdraft status of their accounts, it had recruited around 15 percent of its customers, or some 250,000 people, to the service. The bank is now sending out approximately 3 million short message service, or SMS, alerts and 109,000 e-mails each month. Through its work with Hapoalim as a client, Forrester said it became privy to issues surrounding the service whereby it realized that Hapoalim's high penetration rate was going against the global trend for alert services in the industry, thus prompting the report. "Our analysts recognized that the penetration level of alert systems around the world was pretty low and that many banks have not launched successful systems in the past," said Marlene Shacham, country manager Israel, Forrester Research. The report attributed the successful Hapoalim launch to mainly to the fact that it is based on real-time balances. For this purpose, Bank Hapoalim developed a parallel system for managing up-to-date balances rather than using the regular batch processes that would give a delayed alert. Customers can choose to receive event-triggered alerts, such as each time an ATM withdrawal is made, and time-triggered alerts. such as a summary of credit card charges each week, through SMS or e-mail. Forrester also credited the service's success to its payment structure, which charges a monthly fee for unlimited alerts rather than a per alert payment system, and to the bank's flexibility on how customers can sign up, noting that the service proved most popular with consumers who do not use online banking. While Bank Hapoalim started the service in light of the new banking laws, which were enforced July 1 and require customers to set limits for the overdraft facilities on their accounts, few other banks in Israel have followed suit on the service. Bank Leumi said it is currently running a pilot program for a SMS alert service about customer's credit lines which is scheduled to be launched next month free of charge. Forrester, meanwhile, commended Hapoalim for using the opportunity presented by the regulatory changes "to build a service that actually enriches its client relationships." "Building the perception among its clients that the bank does what is right for customers, not just what's best for the bank's bottom line," Forrester said.