Israeli Insurance Man Strips at Conference to Protest Fee Reform

Senior manager at insurance company Phoenix takes off his clothes in an attempt to illustrate the effects of a move to reduce fees charged by financial firms.

Hundreds of insurance brokers gathered at a conference in Eilat were shocked on Thursday when a senior manager from the Phoenix insurance company stripped down to his underwear during a presentation.

Oren El-On, executive vice president and head of the customer division at Phoenix, was attempting to illustrate the predicament of insurance brokers in the wake of reforms proposed by the Finance Ministry, which would limit fees that companies are allowed to charge for managing Israelis' pension accounts.  

El-On - Marker - 22.3.12
The Marker

Last month, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahudecided to reduce management fees on pension savings plans to a maximum of 1.1% by January of 2013 and 1.05% by January of 2014.

The move is expected to cost financial firms hundreds of millions of shekels and force them to streamline and carry out mergers.

One such merger was announced at the beginning of this week, with two investment houses, Dash Apex and Meitav,expected to merge into one company, which is expected to manage assets worth NIS 104 billion.

El-On's performance embarrassed some of the brokers in the audience, and one religious woman got up and left the hall.

After stripping down to his underwear, El-On walked behind a screen and removed these too, tossing them up in the air.

Regulars at the conference said El-On had pulled a similar stunt at a previous conference, cutting his hair with an electric hair clipper to make a similar point.

On Wednesday, Gidi Ben Meir, the director of portfolio management at Migdal Group, also criticized the new regulations. "If a company that manages assets worth NIS 60 billion has to merge, what does that say about our regulations?" he said.