Discount Bank chair says banking industry evolving in fast-changing world

The award was presented by Jerusalem Post Group CEO Ronit Hasin-Hochman.

Chairman of the Board of Directors, Israel Discount Bank, Joseph Bachar (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Chairman of the Board of Directors, Israel Discount Bank, Joseph Bachar
The banking industry faces huge challenges adjusting to a rapidly changing world, explained Dr. Joseph (Yossi) Bachar, chairman of the board of Discount Bank.
Speaking at Wednesday’s Jerusalem Post Diplomatic Conference, where Bachar received the Jerusalem Post Lifetime Achievement Award for his contribution to banking and the economy, Bachar said Discount Bank is “looking at the rapidly changing world and asking ourselves how we can adjust to these changes.”
Bachar has served as chairman of Discount Bank for the past nine years. During his tenure, he worked to partner between the bank’s different components – Mercantile Bank, CAL credit card company and IDBNY, the bank’s US presence. He has also led the bank’s social initiatives with an emphasis on promoting education among youth in peripheral communities.
The award was presented by Jerusalem Post Group CEO Ronit Hasin-Hochman.
“We are a bank and banks are service providers,” Bachar said. “As service providers, we need to change to make our clients happier and certainly we have to compete with other banks. All the time we are thinking of new, innovative and creative ideas.”
He said that to succeed, Discount Bank tries to understand what customers want and how it can use new technologies to provide this.
One example which is currently in development: an ATM machine that does not require a user to input a code or talk to the machine in order to withdraw money, but could process a withdrawal by simply stating his or her name and the amount of money the individual would like to withdraw. The machine would use face and voice recognition technology to process the request.
“We don’t have to invent any new technology,” said Bachar. “We have to think about finding new applications for existing technologies.”
Bachar said the bank is operating on two tracks. One is finding digital solutions for the existing model of banking, while the other is trying to understand the future model of banking.
He added that Discount Bank recently launched a digital division that works on determining what clients currently want, and provides a digital solution based on their present banking model. At the same time, they are making a modest investment in trying to understand what might be next.
“We don’t want to miss the trend,” he said.
The second track is having an impact on the labor market, Bachar said. He quipped that if his daughter would have told him 15 years ago that she wanted to be an anthropologist, he and his wife would have tried to save money “because we would have to support her because it would be hard to find a job.”
But today, the second largest employer of anthropologists is Microsoft.
“You have to have people that understand human behavior,” he said.
Further, he added that a decade ago banks were skeptical about how fintech – technology used to enable banking and financial services – would impact business. Now, fintech and banking industries are working together.
“There is cooperation and collaboration,” he said.
With almost 300 branches across the country and close to 6,000 employees, Discount Bank was founded in 1935 and received affirmation of investment grade ratings in New York. It has branches in Manhattan, Beverly Hills, Miami, Mexico and beyond, and is positioned on the international market to providing quality service, personalized attention and innovative products that further its clients’ success.
With 70% growth in 2017, Discount Bank is on a trajectory as one of the country’s leading banks in terms of economic growth. Its stock has grown and the continued forecast for the bank shows similar returns in the years to come.