Dawn of an innovative day

Bank Hapoalim CTO Haim Pinto touts the country’s changing banking system

A Bank Hapoalim branch in Tel Aviv (photo credit: REUTERS)
A Bank Hapoalim branch in Tel Aviv
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Haim Pinto left a promising job in New York two years ago and returned with his family to Israel to join the founding team of Bank Hapoalim’s innovation division as CTO. “When you are part of the team of the largest bank in the country, which leads in innovation, you are aware that you are also involved in shaping the Israeli economy – and it’s a wonderful feeling.”
When you ask Pinto where the bank’s customers can find this innovation and use these new tools, he smiles: “First of all, the question is, what type of client are you? There is not one specific type of client for Bank Hapoalim, nor one profile. Our ambition now is to get down to what we call nano-demographics. That is, you, as a customer, no longer belong to the ‘group.’ You are what you are, with the financial conduct that characterizes you and your personal financial history. For example, you may have a tendency to waste or to save, take risks or be more conservative. We now have the tools to better understand who you are, and help you, as our customer, make the best decisions through the service that works best for you.”

Haim Pinto (Courtesy)Haim Pinto (Courtesy)
Can you give us an example?
“If you are a digital user, you will see the change in your mobile phone. You will discover the Bit application and you will find that you no longer need to go to the bank machine to transfer money or buy a gift with friends. You’ll also find that in our account management app, you have the option to do almost any action without even coming close to your bank branch. This includes checking the balance, transferring money, depositing checks, ordering foreign currency before traveling abroad, and even asking for a loan. Let’s take for example the option of loading my children’s UP-card. For every expense they make I receive an SMS. I have full control over their pocket money and as a worried father, it’s worth everything to me. “
Pinto joined the founding team of the bank’s innovation division about two years ago, after 13 years in New York working in various technology positions at some of the largest companies in the US, including Morgan Stanley Investment. During one of his vacations in Israel, he met with Bank Hapoalim CEO Arik Pinto and with former Board of Directors chairman Yair Seroussi, who laid out their vision for the future banking world and the desire to refresh the interface with the client. Following the series of meetings, Pinto, his wife and four children packed their belongings and returned to Israel that summer. We held the conversation with him in one of the beautiful work spaces of the innovation division in a modern office building in Tel Aviv.
“The CEO and chairman of the Board of Directors spoke to me about the changing banking system, the new players in the field, and the fact that we must be willing to serve the customer in the future technological world, but without any compromise on security, the trust, the level of service, and the preservation of the funds in the most responsible and dedicated manner,” recalls Pinto.
Does this also spread to the other divisions of the bank?

“Of course, you can see this change in the business models and the organizational culture of the bank. Today all of the bank’s divisions are working on the same platform, and this innovation is also reflected in employee empowerment, openness, sharing ideas and listening to our partners and of course to customers. It must be remembered that changing organizational culture is a long process, especially when it involves thousands of workers spread throughout the country. All of this today is already an integral part of the bank’s DNA.”
How do customers react to this change?
“Not often surprised, but always with satisfaction. For example, if you call Hapoalim on the phone today, you will no longer talk to telephone receptionists, but to telephone bankers who work with the most advanced IVR [interactive voice response] call routing systems. This is a significant shortening of waiting time, and it’s a tighter service package that the customer will receive. These phone bankers know how to help you, and I will say they even want you to try to stump them with complex questions and demands. Customers are increasingly aware of this change and react enthusiastically to it. Some of our customers even talk to us on Facebook, where we also manage the bank’s relationship with millions of its customers. “
What will happen to the customer who visits his old bank branch?
“He will also find a change there, because the bank’s tremendous technological investment is reflected, among other things, in the speed of service at the branches, precisely in the service, in the ability to receive financial and personal information digitally. One of the banker’s current functions is to explain to the client the variety of possibilities he has in using the bank’s application. Bank Hapoalim’s bankers undergo digital empowerment training, with the aim of guiding customers through the new banking world. After all, a bank exists first to serve its customers, whether they are retail or business, and to protect their assets.
How do you personally feel about this significant change you’ve made in your life and in your family life?
“When you are part of the team of the largest bank in the country, which leads in innovation, you are aware that you are also part of shaping the Israeli economy, and that is a wonderful feeling.” I am often excited by the fact that we are facing many significant changes in the financial world around us, and that we at Bank Hapoalim are prepared and ready for those changes.”
This story was written in cooperation with Bank Hapoalim.