Re-defining banking

Bank Hapoalim’s Development Division brings digital innovation to its customers.

Dr. Ronen Yochpaz (photo credit: Courtesy)
Dr. Ronen Yochpaz
(photo credit: Courtesy)
The Development Division of Bank Hapoalim’s Technology Department manages and maintains the digital platforms on which financial activities take place. These include the mobile application, the bank’s website, the development of new virtual services and protection against cyber attacks and fraud.
“Our job is challenging both conceptually and practically,” says head of the Development Division Dr. Ronen Yochpaz, “as we aim to provide our customers with the easiest and most secure financial services and capabilities.”
In the coming weeks, Bank Hapoalim will be launching a new virtual service that will allow customers to open an individual bank account automatically in less than 10 minutes, without assistance from a banker or the need to visit the branch. Dr. Yochpaz says this is a perfect example of how technological innovation is changing the way that people are consuming the bank’s financial services.
“It means that if someone sitting in front of the TV has a few free minutes one evening, he or she can use the time to open a bank account via his/her computer or smartphone,” says Dr. Yochpaz, a lieutenant colonel in the reserves, who served in the IDF’s central computing unit and has a PhD in information systems in cloud computing. “I remember when I was 17, opening a bank account was a major event. You would go with one of your parents to the bank branch, sit with a banker, fill out countless forms, and wait. Today, with this new service, you can get set up a bank account in just a few moments using your mobile phone,” he continues. “This is a significant change.”
The Jerusalem Post sat down with Dr. Yochpaz to learn more.
This seems to be a revolution in the concept of the customer experience.
Yochpaz: Absolutely – and it is an entirely new level in our technological capabilities. In this case, for example, in order to identify and verify the customer’s identity, we perform a type of ‘live test,’ in which we ask the customer to record his/her voice, smile and take a selfie to verify that a real person is at the other end. We are adapting a variety of advanced technologies to enable these new experiences, which are very similar to the way accounts are opened on Facebook or features are added on Amazon. We are creating intuitive and user-friendly experiences that will enable all of these new technologies.
This means that the technological demands placed on the banking system have increased tremendously.
Customers today expect these capabilities. People are accustomed to conducting all banking transactions with an app or on the bank’s website. Today, no one wants to have to drop everything in the middle of the day to go to the bank in order to deposit a check. People would much rather do it intuitively, in their free time, using the mobile app – and that’s the direction in which we are headed.
And this is the responsibility of the bank’s Development Division?
We are responsible for all the financial products and services the bank offers to its customers in all channels – the mobile application, the bank’s website, the teller services at the branches, the voice answering systems, Bankat operations and more. We are also responsible for the development of the products themselves, such as dealing with deposits, credit and the capital markets. We have more than 800 software professionals working for us, which makes us one of the largest software firms in the country. The Development Division is one of the main sections of the bank’s technology sector. We develop and provide support for all the bank’s digital platforms on which the bank’s financial activities take place.
This must require you to recognize and adopt any technological innovation that emerges in the field.
As I said, technology has helped redefine the entire banking industry in recent years. We see it through the entry of huge companies with limitless resources, such as Facebook, Amazon, Google and Ali Baba.
In other words, you have to be active and agile in today’s marketplace.
Definitely. It helps us understand that there are many more areas in which we can develop, not only in technological innovation but in other spheres as well. This requires us to think about additional services and virtual products we can offer our customers. It also makes us realize that we have to move quickly so as not to miss the boat.
For example?
We recently announced a partnership with the Harel insurance company. When Harel wants to send a payment to a customer, instead of mailing a check that the customer would have to deposit in the bank, the client will receive the funds directly into the Bit application, and the money will be immediately wired into his/her account. It is simple, easy and intuitive.
Is this what customers want?
This is part of the digital transformation that the economy is going through in the digital world, as well as the retail world. Most retailers have a presence online. Today, one can make purchases online, buy tickets for a performance and make dinner reservations via smartphone. This type of user experience applies also to the financial world.
Does this require you to improve your security capabilities?
Of course. As soon as the bank increases its presence in the digital world, it becomes more vulnerable to hackers and fraud. We have identified an increase in the number of cyber attacks, and it is a never-ending battle. It’s important to recognize, though, that we have the ability and the means to create the best protection for the bank and our customers with resources, tools, innovation and cooperation with the many new start-up companies in the field of cyber protection. In recent years, banks in Israel and around the world have suffered virtual attacks that damaged their reputation. As the largest banking group in Israel, we must lead the way in cyber security.
How would you define the cyber struggle?
It’s a type of war that is going on all the time, even if it’s mostly under the radar. We are at the forefront of the struggle, and we have the top technologies and the best personnel. This is where our Technology Division plays a vital role. We use as much technological innovation as possible because ultimately, we want our customers to be able to use our financial services easily, simply and safely. Our bottom line is to ensure that the services we provide are good, innovative, safe and accessible.