Tel Aviv Stock Exchange CEO to Resign at Year-end

Ester Levanon says disappointed that TASE board did not support her plan to boost trading volumes.

Several days after receiving a negative performance review, Ester Levanon said on Wednesday that she would be stepping down as CEO of the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange by the end of the year.

Her decision after seven years on the job comes after she failed to find a way to solve the problem of declining trading volumes on the exchange.

“Last week I presented a detailed document describing the actions taken by the stock exchange to boost the flow and streamline trading,” Levanon wrote in a resignation letter to the board. “Regrettably, I don’t feel I have the board’s firm support for the plan,” she said.

The TASE has been struggling with a sharp drop in trading as well as tepid returns at a time when many of the world’s stock markets have been hitting new records. In stocks and convertible bonds, average daily trading has fallen by more than half since 2008 to $279 million last year and only improved fractionally to $302 million. Levanon had been seeking to address the problem but so far to little avail.

TASE Chairman Sam Bronfeld, who had given Levanon her performance review, said he accepted Levanon’s resignation with regret.

Over the past year and a half her relations with the chairman have been poor, and in a four-page review of her performance Bronfeld wrote that “some of the parameters on which Levanon was tested require improvement.” The review focused largely on special projects Levanon has taken on over the past year as well as corporate governance.

Levanon hinted at her troubled relations with Bronfeld in her letter of resignation on Wednesday, saying, “Since I attribute utmost importance to harmony and cohesiveness between management and the board, I made the decision to end my work at the stock exchange at the end of December.”

Bronfeld’s performance review apparently focused on the failure of the exchange’s extended hours, which Levanon introduced last month, to boost trading volumes. It also noted the abortive effort to have Israel included in the MSCI Europe index.

“The stock exchange is looking for a scapegoat, and they think that if Levanon goes home then the other managers and stock exchange directors won’t get fired,” claimed a source close to Levanond.

David Bachar