Israel Discount Bank Launches Brooklyn Opening - The Jewish Voice
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Thursday, May 19, 2022

Israel Discount Bank Launches Brooklyn Opening

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President and CEO of Israel Discount Bank Group, Reuven Spiegel.IDB Bank is one of Israel’s most prominent financial institutions, and has been a major player on New York’s banking scene for over half a century. Now, at long last, they’ve come to Brooklyn, opening a private banking branch on Avenue U, in Gravesend— a diverse neighborhood that also happens to be one of Brooklyn’s Sephardic enclaves.

“Brooklyn Heights is not the most expensive real estate in Brooklyn, neither is Park Slope. The most expensive real estate is within 6 blocks of this place, so you chose wisely,” Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce President Carlo Scissura said with a grin, addressing the IDB leaders at the ribbon cutting ceremony.

Mr. Scissura has been the President and CEO of the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce since September 2012. Born and raised in Bensonhurst, he has been an advocate for Brooklyn his entire career.

“It’s exciting when interesting, innovative places open in Brooklyn,” he said.

Among other prominent faces in attendance at the Brooklyn Branch opening was IDB Bank President and CEO, Reuven Spiegel.

Spiegel joined Israel Discount Bank in 2001, initially as the head of the planning division. Shortly thereafter he was appointed head of the banking division, where he enacted widespread changes in Discount branch system. In 2006, Mr. Spiegel was appointed CEO of Israel Discount Bank of New York – the largest of the Israeli banks operating in the United States. During his tenure, he implemented a restructuring plan at Discount’s American branch that featured streamlining, establishing new risk management infrastructure and improving relations with American supervision authorities. He was appointment President and CEO in 2011, and made a point to travel from Tel Aviv to New York, to be there for the Brooklyn Branch’s grand opening.

In a recent press release, the CEO said: “Experience, stringent discipline, and vast resources are some of the reasons why discerning institutional and individual investors turn to professional money management companies. IDB Bank continues to thrive because of our well-known reputation of delivering individualized attention to our customers. Our experienced professionals on the Investment Management and Trust team serve our clients at the highest levels with advice they can trust.”

Oh, and who can leave out the ever jocular Brooklyn Borough President, Marty Markowitz. At the ribbon cutting ceremony, he turned to Henry Hassan, the Branch Manager, and joked in reference to the duo’s small stature: “We could almost be bookends, you know that?” The comment drew big laughs from the crowd of devoted clients and colleagues. But the funnyman also had great praise for Hassan: “I’m thrilled you’re here Henry. I know you’ll do well and be a great corporate citizen of the city of Brooklyn, USA. The better you do the better we’ll do, I know the folks you hire and the work that you do really indicates the continued growth of Brooklyn.”

A Brooklyn boy at heart, Marty said he grew up in the neighborhood all his life of “almost 68 years”, and remains loyal to his beloved home town: “We have everything you could want here, from the Brooklyn Nets to this year’s Miss America. In Brooklyn, when you think you’ve heard it all, you haven’t. On behalf of all of us, 2.6 million [Brooklynites] and growing, I declare this day, Israel Discount Bank’s Brooklyn branch grand opening celebration day in the city of Brooklyn, USA.”

And a celebration it was. The live music, champagne glasses with strawberries at the bottom provided for a sparkling atmosphere. As was the mouth watering aroma, which came a la various finger food platters passed around by the young hostesses: bruschetta, fried artichoke, mini-sliders, kosher pigs in a blanket, coconut chicken, chicken empanadas, to name a few.

“This is our third IDB Bank opening, we did Staten Island, New Jersey and now Brooklyn,” said catering extraordinaire Chaim Kay. “We have a cocktail hour, a kosher sushi station and an individual fruit and salad station. Our carving station is always a big hit, with pastrami, corn beef, roast beef, rib eye and cooked turkey breast— that usually goes first,” he said.

Aside for the hoopla and fancy food, the branch is known for its personal touch. IDB Bank’s ability to connect with its clients on a personal basis has long been one of the hallmarks of how the bank does business. Consequently, many prominent Brooklynites believe that it is this particular strength that will allow IDB Bank of New York to thrive and expand.

IDB was the first Israeli bank catering to private individuals (the other banks at that time were servicing businesses and other large entities). And that personal touch is something that IDB Bank has managed to hold on to for all these years.

Formerly known as Eretz Yisrael Discount Bank or Palestine Discount Bank, Israel Discount Bank was founded on 5 April 1935 by Leon Recanati. The bank operated from Tel Aviv, and was founded with a focus on foreign trade and with a deliberate Sephardic orientation so as to fill what Recanati perceived as a “Sephardic void” in the banking industry. Discount was unique in that it was open to private customers, whereas most other banks in Israel at the time catered to merchants and institutions.

Shortly after the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, Ottoman Bank, one of five large foreign banks active at the time, was merged into Discount Bank. Discount became Israel’s second largest bank in 1952, with over 40 branches throughout the country. It retained that position until the merger of Bank Hapoalim with the credit and saving funds of the Histadrut in 1957. Discount opened its first commercial bank in the United States in 1962 in the form of Israel Discount Bank of New York, or IDB Bank. In 1965 Discount Bank was still described as a “bastion of the veteran Sephardic establishment.”

In 1952, the name of the bank was changed to Israel Discount Bank.

Discount began establishing a presence in Florida in the late 1970s, at the time specializing in international banking. In 2002 it expanded its Florida-based operations to encompass domestic banking as well, after taking over part of the Hamilton Bank of Miami, which had been seized and closed by regulators.

Today, IDB Bank Ltd. is one of Israel’s three largest banks. Its strong personal ties with the local community helped them forge bonds in Latin American countries, such that IDB Bank of New York’s subsidiary in Uruguay is the sixth largest bank in the country, where they’re called Discount Bank Latin America (DBLA).

When asked ‘why Gravesend?’, IDB of New York’s CEO, Ehud Arnon told the Jewish Voice: “When we were looking for a branch in Brooklyn where we have a lot of clients, we looked for an area which would be convenient to them, and the most convenient place we found is this one. Which has the advantages of both being a very new building and located right by a synagogue.”

In addition to the synagogue on premises, the the beautiful new complex housing IDB includes all the amenities of a Park Avenue high rise, including magnificent doorman lobby, a gym, private security and valet parking on site.

Another honorary guest was Deputy Commissioner Gregg Bishop. In line with the event’s wise-cracks and one-liners, the 6’3” native Grenadian and former Vibe Magazine tech whiz said though he “hardly” gets mistaken for the mayor, he is honored to represent him at the event.

“The fact they decided to establish a presence here shows their commitment to small businesses, in this community and the greater NYC area,” said Bishop, who was handpicked to represent Bloomberg by the mayor himself.

Speaking on behalf of the city, Bishop said they were excited the bank has decided to “plant its roots” in the area: “There’s more options for small businesses and we’re looking forward to working closely with them.”

The bottom line is that IDB Bank knows how to throw a party. Also, its leaders understand how to think globally, and act locally, as the bank is at once international in its scope and domestic in its focus. It is in this spirit that they bring their world famous customer service to the residents of Brooklyn.

“We’ve always been part of the community,” a bank employee told the Jewish Voice as the event was nearing to a close. “This just allows our client base to bank closer to their homes. It brings us to them more so than them to us. They all live here so now we’re able to provide them with personal service from their own backyards.”

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