Leumi Launches Digital Bank Pepper

Ambitious project is two years and $43 million in the making

Bank Leumi in Tel Aviv.
Bloomberg

After years of development, delays and a soft rollout by invitation that began in February, Bank Leumi on Monday launched its digital bank, Pepper.

The platform, which is aimed at millennials, aged 18 to 35, was developed with Switzerland’s Temenos Group as a bank that exists only on a smartphone. Pepper has no branches, it doesn’t even have a banking website.

As if to differentiate the new venture from traditional banking, Leumi CEO Rakefet Russak-Aminoach spoke just briefly at a news conference at Pepper’s Tel Aviv offices, before journalists were split up into small groups to be briefed on the new product and ask questions.

Pepper was developed over two years at a cost of 150 million shekels ($42.6 million). While the unit doesn’t have its own banking license, it operates separately and counts 150 of its own employees in an atmosphere that resembles a financial-tech startup.

“We’re talking about a major investment even by the standards of Bank Leumi,” said Tamar Yassur, who is head of Leumi’s digital division. “Our business plan call for hundreds of thousands of clients joining us in the next few years and within the next two to three years Pepper will be profitable.”

To open a Pepper account, you must already have an account at an existing institution, but you can close it after joining Pepper. Pepper says it can take as little as eight seconds to open a new account. is as little as eight seconds.

Pepper currently offers basic banking services, including checking, saving, loans and credit-card services, but Pepper said the offerings will expand.