Text size

Bank Hapoalim is to be the first of Israel's banks to market a life insurance policy. The bank is soon to launch its policy to its clients in the U.S. through its bank, Signature.

As opposed to the restriction in Israel, banks in the U.S. are permitted to market insurance policies according to legislation on financial services passed two years ago. The supervisory authorities in the U.S. have approved Hapoalim's policies though they notified the bank that this does not include any approval of such marketing in Israel.

Signature was launched in May 2001 with six branches in New York, with the aim of attracting wealthy private clients. The bank employs 150 workers today, and Joseph DePaolo is president and CEO. Signature's stated target is to have 2,500 private clients within three years and to manage assets of $2 billion.

A source close to the bank said that Signature is progressing at a remarkable pace toward this goal and that it already manages sums of $700 million.

At the same time, Hapoalim launched its Signature Securities subsidiary which deals with investment portfolio management and financial instruments.

The final approval of the life insurance policy is expected to come through from the U.S. authorities in the coming weeks. The approval is contingent on the bank's capital structure and for this purpose, Hapoalim has set up a holding company in the U.S. to concentrate its American activities.

Bank Hapoalim holds 20 percent of shares in Clal Insurance, one of Israel's two largest insurance companies. Though banks in Israel are currently forbidden from marketing insurance policies in their branches, Hapoalim senior management believes that this policy will change some time in the coming years, and it would do no harm to pursue a close relationship between the two companies in the interim.

Bank Hapoalim has considered buying an Eastern European bank in the past but never found the right opportunity. A few weeks ago, Hapoalim explored the possibility of joining a consortium for a Slovenian bank but the deal fell through, partly because the banking supervisor objected, and also because of the bank management's lack of support.