Risk management

Tehila Yanai puts 'red lights' on local business world.

tehila yanai 88  (photo credit: )
tehila yanai 88
(photo credit: )
Against all risks, Tehila Yanai, joint managing director of Business Data Israel, an academic at heart and an economist by profession, made it her mission to educate the Israeli business world in how to evaluate and manage risk. "I saw that there was a need in Israel for a business information portal that would provide market analysis, credit reports and other information on business sectors and be used as a work tool to assist the corporate world in making decisions about new partners, mergers, suppliers and so on," Yanai says. "At first, not all sources cooperated in providing information. It was an education process to build an awareness of the need and the tool in order to make businesses understand that it was in their interest to cooperate." Yanai's intuition did not fail her. Today, BDI has grown to be the Israeli leader in business and marketing information, evaluating risk levels of companies and businesses and providing credit recommendations indexing commercial risk and payment morality of companies and providing information for all global credit companies. For the last year, the BDI group has been controlled by Coface, the world largest concern for foreign trade credit risks insurance, but it was 17 years ago that Yanai decided to take on the challenge of developing a completely new kind of business from scratch, while at the same time making use of her academic and analytical skills. Yanai, who holds Bachelors and Masters degrees in Economics from Tel Aviv University, started her career as a lecturer at the university. "Lecturing on economics is what I was very good at; I was very popular connecting with the students," she says. But it was not enough. With a broader vision, Yanai saw herself stepping out into in the business world, though the start was not easy. Yanai's background was strongly academic, so she started to build up some experience in the private sector from managing real estate projects in trade and industry, which were developed from nothing, to the construction of commercial projects. "I realized that I enjoyed establishing and building projects from scratch," says Yanai. "I still like the thought world and I like studying and in particular lecturing, but already during my academic career I understood that the business world was better suited to my character, my temperament and my motivational attitude." With the help of contacts, forged by a determined Yanai from early on in her career in the private sector, she moved on to create her own "baby." "The challenge of developing BDI, was the challenge of creating something not just from scratch but something completely new that was not there before," says Yanai, in her natural down-to-earth, yet professional, manner. "I have always been a very motivated person, no matter what I did. This is my secret of success. Once, I set myself a goal, I invest until I succeed." So, in January 1990, Yanai made it her goal to build BDI, beginning with a small one-and-a-half room office. "I started from nothing and against all odds that we could actually succeed. Today, we have 120 people in our offices," the 49 year-old Yanai says proudly. Whether ranking the best or most highly regarded companies to work for, or how many women are in the corporate world, there is no limit to the diversity of BDI's products. One of the first services, offered by BDI was "Red Lights," used by businesses to make real-time credit inspections on potential partners to determine whether to conduct business or any other activity with them. "Negative indicators of companies were exposed such as returned checks and other financial difficulties," says Yanai. The service offers information from a variety of data sources such as the court system, suppliers, banks and the media, and can be used either by a computer or a facsimile machine. BDI offers database information on 350,000 companies and businesses in Israel. In addition, the business information provider, compiles the index of the 500 leading companies in Israel. Among BDI's clients are the government offices, public bodies, banks, the insurance sector, credit risk insurance and industry, trade and services companies. A mother of three, Yanai is a proud, working mother. "I love to work. From after the army, I remember myself working, whether at BDI or elsewhere," she says with a big smile. "I have three great children and as a mother, I never sat at home." Yanai is conscious of the fact that some might have problems with this, but she's adept at assessing those potential risks, as well. "I believe in the quality time I spent with my children and if I didn't work, it would probably be worse for them," she says. "I place much importance on independence. I assign responsibilities and freedom of activity whether in the management of the home or at BDI. At home, for example, I don't check my children's homework." Meanwhile, when it comes to the advancement and standing of women in the business world, Yanai, believes the situation is much better than it was years ago. "When we look back 30 years, the environment for women in the business world was different," Yanai observes. "There were more stigmas regarding the ambition and motivation of women to attain a certain position, which was more in Nowadays, Yanai believes, the change lies in the fact that women are graduating with a variety of degrees, including economics, which wasn't the norm before. "There is a growing trend for equalizing the opportunities for women to be business leaders, although we shouldn't forget that not all women want to become business leaders. It is a matter of choice," says Yanai. "I believe, we are going in the right direction, but we are not there yet." Although, Yanai, feels that there is nothing that should stop women from entering the business world, there are still necessary steps needed to be taken to support women who want to go out to work. "I am a strong supporter of the recognition of nanny or day-care as an income tax expense," she says. As for herself, in her position at BDI, Yanai, sees her mission accomplished in the business world. "Looking ahead, I don't see myself building another project outside of BDI. I am happy to continue to launch new products at BDI, and I might get involved in community activities and write a book." TEHILA YANAI Born: Tel Aviv Age: 49 Status: Married with three children Education: * Bachelor's Economics, Tel Aviv University * Master's in Economics, Tel Aviv University Professional milestones: * Lecturer in Economics at the Tel Aviv University * Project Manager in real estate sector and in trade and industry * Founder, joint managing director of Business Data Israel