Come Grow With Us? Hapoalim Slogan Is Only a Memory

Bank is streamlining operations to include less outsourcing and smaller branches

Bank Hapoalim operates about 270 branches, with a combined floor space of 140,000 square meters, more than any other Israeli bank. Much of this is unused, including basements and former safety-deposit-box and archive rooms, yet Hapoalim continues to pay rent and municipal taxes on the space. Even branches' reception areas are being used less, as many employees have been transferred to back-office work.

All this underscores the bank's need to reduce the size of its branches; due to the economic downturn, Hapoalim is speeding up downsizing at certain branches.

So far this year Hapoalim has opened 13 express branches that offer basic teller services, and two more branches are scheduled to start up in the next two months. Hapoalim also recently opened seven boutique branches for private banking and plans to open four more this year. Several more express and boutique branches had been in the pipeline for this year, but the financial slump put a damper on this.

Also trimmed back is the opening of dozens of branches for mid-sized and large businesses; now only two such branches are in the offing, and Hapoalim recently halted talks to lease space for such a branch at the diamond exchange in Ramat Gan.

Hapoalim's outsourced employees - mostly computer and software technicians - will also be hit: They will only be allowed to clock 180 hours a month, with no overtime. Bank Leumi has also trimmed the monthly hours in its outsourcing budget.

Streamlining measures at the other banks have been minor and are unlikely to lower expenses by much, except at Israel Discount Bank, which trimmed some of its executives' wages by 5% and canceled the 13th monthly salary that some managers receive.