Israel Bonds: A record-breaking, strategic asset for Israel

Regional conflict could also lead to credit lines not being extended to Israel.

shekel versus dollar 370 (photo credit: REUTERS)
shekel versus dollar 370
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The historic 2013 US Israel Bonds sales effort – which resulted in domestic sales exceeding $1.12 billion – dispelled any lingering notions regarding the wisdom of investing in Israel bonds. The achievement underscored widespread acceptance of Israel bonds as important additions to investment portfolios and dispelled, once and for all, outdated misconceptions of Israel bonds as “charity.”
Putting the record year – an unparalleled success in both real and nominal terms – into perspective, 2013 domestic sales were 38 percent above last year’s total of $816 million and nearly 80% more than the $633m. realized in 2011.
Notably, surpassing $1.12b. in US domestic sales occurred in a year without major conflict, countering the perception that Israel bonds are bought in great numbers only when Israel confronts a national emergency. On the contrary, the record-breaking year can be attributed to recognition of the value of investing in Israel bonds, and, especially, confidence in the Israeli economy. The accomplishments of 2013 highlight the success the Bonds organization has had in shifting the narrative from the geopolitical to the economic.
Every day, Israel Bonds emphasizes the message that Israel’s economy is dynamic, full of innovative spirit and groundbreaking entrepreneurship. It is a message that has resonated with Israel Bonds clients from across the spectrum who invest in Israel bonds to become stakeholders in one of the world’s most resilient economies.
Indeed, Israel’s economy is well-positioned to continue outpacing most other developed nations, particularly with the multi-billion dollar revenue stream soon to be generated through its massive natural gas fields.
The record sales of 2013 further solidified the reputation of Israel Bonds as a dependable economic resource for Israel. While Israel successfully utilizes the public markets for debt financing, it almost certainly would not be able to rely solely on these markets in times of economic or security challenge. Under either of those circumstances, it is more than likely Israel’s credit rating would drop, and, as a result, the cost of financing through capital markets would become excessive.
If Israel needed international financial assistance during a crisis, there is only one country it could truly rely on, and that is the United States. Nonetheless, America’s current economic difficulties and debt burden would make it challenging for the US to reinstitute a significant civilian aid program for Israel. So for Israel to know it can always turn to Israel Bonds under all circumstances positions the organization as a vital national asset.
In addition to its proven reliability in securing capital, the Bonds organization is cost-effective. The two-, three-, five- and 10-year securities currently sold by Israel Bonds average out to a duration of approximately 4.5 years, and an average interest rate of approximately 2%. Also, operational costs of the worldwide Israel Bonds enterprise – just over 2.8% of bonds sold – compare favorably when measured against similar- sized brokerage firms.
Moreover, the Bonds organization is comprised of a professional team with a unique skill set. Similar to the personnel of leading financial firms, Israel Bonds’ human capital is a valuable corporate resource. This is particularly true in times of conflict. Losing the Bonds sales and management team and subsequently attempting to recreate it during a national emergency would take at least 18 months due to financial industry regulations and required examinations.
Obviously, the idea of Israel trying to weather an economic and security crisis for 18 months is inconceivable.
And, were a crisis to erupt, it is unlikely an independent brokerage firm would be able to secure capital from the Jewish community – and additional sources of support – as effectively as the Bonds organization. Israel Bonds also has the advantage of its lay leadership, which, through networking and introductions, helps facilitate numerous accomplishments.
Throughout the years, Israel Bonds has successfully developed a sizable, diverse client base even the largest financial services would envy. Were Israel not to have access to this client base and urgently need to reestablish it, the cost of securing necessary interim credit lines from commercial banks would be quite substantial.
Regional conflict could also lead to credit lines not being extended to Israel.
The Israel Bonds client base is augmented by high-profile institutional investors – states, municipalities, banks, insurance companies, other financial institutions and more. In addition to their investments, the immediate name recognition institutional investors provide gives Bonds retail clients assurance they are acquiring a wise investment.
Israel Bonds also allows its retail clients – the individuals and Jewish organizations comprising approximately 75% of worldwide annual sales – greater ease of access when purchasing bonds than what is typically offered by the capital bond market, and Israel bond investments can also be made online. The Bonds e-commerce site has been exceptionally successful since its fall 2011 launch, with sales currently approaching $50m., comprising more than 8,400 online investors and over 17,000 bondholders.
A value-added aspect of investing in Israel bonds is the powerful statement it sends to Israel’s adversaries, especially the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. Knowing Israel will never be defeated on the battlefield, BDS supporters employ confrontational economic tactics on a wide variety of fronts.
Yet, each and every Israel bond investment sends an unmistakable message to BDS advocates: Israel’s economy will remain strong. In 2013, with over $1.12b. in domestic US sales, that message was particularly emphatic.
In sum, the above points reinforce the fact that for Israel to have the support of Israel Bonds – a dedicated, independent financial pipeline – is without a doubt an indispensable strategic national resource, especially since Bonds clients have proven time and again that when Israel faces challenges, they do not walk away.
The writer is president & CEO of the Development Corporation for Israel/ Israel Bonds.