Prisma Erases Hapoalim

When a new pope is crowned, the procession halts thrice en route to the basilica altar. At each halt, a piece of tow is set on fire. As it dies, the Pope hears the chant, "Pater sancte, sic transit gloria mundi".

"Holy Father, this is how the glory of the world passes away; for in the midst of the pomp and splendor of his crowning, the Pope is reminded that he is but a mortal man," writes the True Catholic Organization.

Markstone could probably have used a master of ceremony in the days following the Bachar reform, to warn that the capital market was changing, and that the new one would be based on brands that relate to the customer with respect, proving decent yields and modern service. A master of ceremonies to intone that the glory of the banks as managers of the public's savings was an illusion, based on a captive audience, and the illusion would vanish when the banks got out of the business.

It could have used a master of ceremonies to explain that the banks, which had managed the public's money miserably and outrageously, had only managed to raise billions for investment by dint of having the best salespeople ? salespeople who viewed the public as objects, selling what management told them to sell. They'd caught the client at his most sensitive financial spot: his bank account.

But time passed and a year and a half after Markstone paid almost half a billion shekels for Bank Hapoalim's mutual funds management company PKN, and a year after changing its name to PKN Plus failed to keep the public from fleeing en masse, Markstone gave up.

In a laconic announcement to the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange at the end of last week, Markstone's investment arm Prisma announced that the name of the biggest mutual funds company in the financial market, with NIS 20 billion under management, was changing again to Prisma Mutual Funds.

Who would have believed two years ago that one of the super-brand names in the capital market would turn out to be unfit for human consumption so swiftly after parting ways with its mother ship.

The truth is that Prisma's management has known for ten months now that they had no choice. Polls among investment advisers at the banks showed that the name "Poalim Mutual Funds" had no future.

Now that they've completed a round of hiring investment managers, setting up marketing mechanisms and independent operational systems, and bought Lahak (another Bank Hapoalim brand name whose time has passed), now that they've reorganized and improved the investment management at the funds, and raised their rank - Prisma felt confident enough to lose the name "Hapoalim".  This month they look likely to close with net recruitment, instead of withdrawal.

Bank Hapoalim is also undergoing a change in mindset. In giant ads in the papers, it's promoting a conference at which it will be hosting all the leading investment banks. Finally, Bank Hapoalim is positioning itself as a financial mediator alone, enabling the makers of the financial products to talk with its clients. The bank calls it the first such conference for financial planning, but that's just because something from the old world is still embedded in the bank. Somebody over at Bank Hapoalim thinks they invented the wheel.