Banking: Capital shows its appreciation

Israel Discount Bank is celebrating its first decade in London.

By Billie Josephs, December 17, 2010

Ten years of innovative, dedicated bridge-building in the financial jungle of the City of London are being celebrated by Israel Discount Bank (IDB), one of Israel's three most powerful commercial banking institutions, with assets in excess of $50 billion and with 260 offices around the world.

Headquartered in Mayfair and supported by IDB Group's global network - which includes one of the seven largest banks in New York State - the bank's UK centre offers its British clients a comprehensive range of commercial services, whether they require lending facilities, corporate and trade finance, Treasury products or specialist private banking services.

Founded in the 1930s, the bank has played a major role in the development of the Israeli economy and the growth of the country's private sector.

Domestically, the institution is comprised of commercial banks and financial services companies active in credit cards, investment banking, portfolio management, trustee services and leasing. Discount bank also holds a 26.45 per cent equity stake in First International Bank of Israel, the fifth largest bank in the country.

Its presence in Britain, America and several European countries, including Switzerland, has seen it become a major player in the world's investment and commodities markets.

The London branch, in Curzon Street, is run by one of Israel's most experienced financial figures, Danny Elkanati, who in a total of 13 years in Britain has become a very a familiar figure. He served in the UK as representative of Israel's Ministry of Finance and head of Israel Bonds and has held a senior position at Bank Hapoalim's branch in London.

IDB's decision, 10 years ago, to open a full-scale branch in London, says the chief executive officer, was aimed at bringing it a presence in the City, one of the world's leading global markets, acting as a bridge between Israeli, British and Western European economies and providing high end services to its investors.

Some 75 per cent of IDB London's volume of trading, which has reached in excess of $2 billion, is dedicated to commodity trading in the oil and energy sector, says Mr Elkanati, The bank facilitates links between with British and Israeli oil and gas companies.

There is also a flourishing corporate side, he remarks, in particular providing property finance in the two countries. "The Jewish community in particular wants to buy property in Israel and we can offer a problem-free service, from providing mortgages to help with all the red tape."

When it comes to investment advice, IDB offers "added value" rather than pushing particular products. "We carefully analyse our clients' requirements and the type of investments they want," says the CEO.

"We have strong, direct access to the market leaders and bring to clients the best and most innovative investment products on the market. That is where the added value comes in. Our experts provide a constant process of proper monitoring and analysis of investments. There is a growing demand for these services."

Mr Elkanati considers the bank's 10th anniversary in the UK as something of a milestone, pointing out that starting from scratch, it now provides full facilities and a presence in all the main economic niches.

He is also dedicated to building links with the Jewish community and has set up an advisory board including lay leaders from London and Manchester to advise the bank on its support for communal charities and synagogues.

"As a management we are committed to the UK market and to strengthening our links with the community," says Mr Elkanati.

IDB is marking its 10 years in London with a celebration at Millbank Tower.

Guests will include Israeli Ambassador Ron Prosor and the bank's CEO and President Giora Offer. The event will also see the launch of a video exhibition if the work of Israeli artists in association with Christie's.

The bank began collecting Israeli art in the 1960s, supporting young artists and building a varied collection including some rare and pivotal works.

"We are bringing a piece of Israel into the heart of London, which is what we have been proud to have been doing for the last 10 years," says IDB.

Last updated: 12:22pm, December 17 2010