Q&A with Gal Defes, BHI Head of International Commercial & Industrial, High Tech and Corporate Banking Services

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Gal, how would you summarize 2021?  What do you think has been the greatest accomplishment?


2021 has been a great year for BHI in general, and for the Israeli Group in Particular.  We have seen significant growth across all of the Israeli Group’s lines of business: Israeli C&I, Corporate Banking Services, and High Tech


Our Israeli International C&I Team, led by Uri Shusterman, closed credit facilities for Israeli related companies of over $500 million. The High Tech Team, led by Max Furman, closed credit facilities for technology companies in excess of $130 million and has also seen an increase of more than 60% in depository balances. The Corporate Banking Services Team, led by Moti Eliasi, reached a new record of depository balance, exceeding $1.2 billion. Those are all remarkable achievements in a year like no other.


What areas were you focusing on in 2021?  Which sectors do you think led to this growth? 


Our teams work across a wide variety of sectors from tech startups to middle-market C&I companies.  Of course, technology is a critical sector for BHI and has been a significant growth engine, especially SaaS companies that have been able to leverage the accelerated digital transformation driven by the pandemic.  That said, we have also seen tremendous growth in other verticals including aerospace, plastics, and renewable energy.  


To what do you attribute this success? 


I believe that it is a combination of the hard work that was done by our teams, along with a personal approach of a boutique bank that supports our clients’ growth.  Our teams have been extremely resilient, even with working remotely and the continuing unpredictability of Covid, and remained diligently focused on our client success.  


What is your outlook for 2022?  What do you want to accomplish? 


I am looking forward to another year of growth across the industries we service. As we all know, Q1 sets the tone for the entire year, and we are very encouraged by the fact that during the first week of January, the International C&I team closed and funded nearly $100 million in new loans – an incredibly strong start to the year. We are looking to expand in 2022, both by entering new sectors and by focusing on hiring talent to expand our teams and support our growth. 


Renewable Energy is a strategic sector for Bank Hapoalim, both in Israel and the U.S., and we expect it to contribute to our growth in the future. 


I believe this upcoming year will bring new opportunities for those who are looking to join a growing bank and a fast paced environment, where employees are the most important asset. Our achievements are a direct result of our employees’ tremendous devotion, dedication, and hard work. As 2022 begins, it’s also a great opportunity to say, to both our clients and employees, “Thank You!”