Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz notified Prof. Oded Sarig on Monday night of his appointment as the commissioner of capital markets, insurance and savings in the Ministry of Finance.
Sarig has been on the Bank Hapoalim board of directors for the past few years but is expected to announce his resignation in light of the appointment. Pending the approval of the Civil Service Commission and the cabinet, Sarig, 54, is to succeed Yadin Antebi in the position in January.
Sarig has a Ph.D in finance from the University of California, Berkeley. He served as dean of the Arison School of Business at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya. He was highly respected by students there, where he earned a reputation for being pleasant and knowledgeable. Sarig has taught at Columbia and Tel Aviv universities, and at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, among other institutions. His research has focused on risk management and company financing.
Sarig has advised companies and organizations on investment, financial management and the appraisal of assets and companies. He has likewise served on several boards of directors, including the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange and Bank Hapoalim, as well as on investment committees. At Hapoalim, he was involved in some difficult decisions in one of the most serious affairs facing the bank in recent years - the ousting of chairman Dan Dankner. Sarig was also a member of the bank's ad hoc committee to hire the bank's new chief executive.
Sarig has also served as director and manager of Seculife International, which provides healthcare, telemedical and medical consultancy services for the elderly.
He also served on the board of Provisio Capital, which has real estate interests in Vietnam, alongside Modi Peled. Peled and Sarig also sat together in 2003; they were among the new members appointed to the investment committees of the state pension funds after the Finance Ministry replaced the investment managers in the wake of the accumulation of huge deficits.
Sarig is also an active shareholder in Fouria Technological Systems, an educational software developer with revenues of $12 million in 2008. He and his wife, Yael Sarig, jointly own Natural Bits Food Design. "The company is based on a patent that my wife and I developed, for a new food product," Sarig said, adding that the product is not yet on the market yet.
Sarig has no experience in the area of insurance. Is this good or bad? It depends who you ask. The head of one large insurance company said Sarig will face high hurdles. These include the expected reforms in the capital market.
"Sarig doesn't live and breathe the sector. Products in the insurance industry are historical. Some policies were created 30 years ago. He will have to make a big effort to retain his deputies, Arik Peretz and Yoav Bar-On, and no doubt will have to smooth ruffled feathers over the fact that they were not chosen for the position," the head of one large insurance company said. Nevertheless, he said that putting new blood into the system is a good thing.
But another figure in the capitals market is concerned about Sarig's inexperience. "He has no history of managing people. It's different from Haim Shani, the Finance Ministry's director general, who was also recruited from 'outside the system.' Shani headed NICE Systems for eight years," the source said. "Sarig has no background in this area - capital markets and insurance is work with thousands of agents and a great deal of regulation."
Steinitz says that Sarig can make a significant contribution to shaping and developing Israel's capital market, retirement savings market and the insurance sector.
Deputy Finance Minister Yitzhak Cohen and Shani, who were involved in Sarig's selection, said the most suitable person was chosen after many candidates were considered. They said the position is one of the most important in the public service, particularly now.
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