New IDB VP seeks closer community relations

New IDB VP seeks closer community relations

Israel Discount Bank of New York is "a breakthrough in the thinking of bankers," said its new vice president of business development, Zeev Rubinstein.

Until today, the bank was "very square in the box," said the Tenafly resident, who took the job of vice president in December. IDB’s president, Reuven Spiegel, also of Tenafly, has added a new focus on marketing, which is where Rubinstein comes into the picture. His job is to connect the bank to local Jewish organizations, as well as American branches of Israeli businesses.

Zeev Rubinstein, right, recently became vice president of business development for Israel Discount Bank of New York. He and IDB’s president and CEO Reuven Spiegel, left, live in Tenafly.

If, for example, a representative of an Israeli business in the United States wanted to open a bank account, he would need a social security number, a credit card, and other means to check his credit history. Through IDB, the process could be expedited because of the bank’s international reach. But, Rubinstein said, IDB is careful to first make certain that the company is legally operating in the United States.

"Because we know the company from Israel and we know how to check the credit and reliability, that gives us the leverage in helping him adjust in the United States," Rubinstein said. "When it’s legal and done properly, we are the bridge for coming from Israel and going to Israel."

This is Rubinstein’s second stint in the United States. He had previously worked for the Israeli communications firm Leadcom, which sent him in ‘001 to build a U.S. subsidiary. He is also a graduate of the New York Institute of Technology.

He has lived in Tenafly for five years, mainly because "it feels like home" with the JCC on the Palisades, Israeli groceries nearby, and a caf? catering to the Israeli population. "You feel like in a kibbutz in Israel," he said.

IDB of New York is a subsidiary of IDB Ltd. in Tel Aviv, but maintains its position as an independent bank. IDB Ltd. began operations in New York in 1949, opening a full branch in 196′. In 1980, the branch changed its name to IDB New York and took over much of the Western hemisphere banking for IDB Ltd. in Israel. In March ‘000, it became a wholly owned subsidiary of Discount Bancorp Inc., a Delaware holding company it formed to hold its shares.

"We cooperate with each other but we are separate entities," Rubinstein said of the relationship with the Tel Aviv office.

Rubinstein, who said he is "very well connected to the Jewish community," spends his days presenting IDB to the community to grow its involvement.

"When you talk about an Israeli bank you bring immediately the importance of working with an Israeli bank," he said. "You’re not only doing banking in America but you’re doing something for the State of Israel."

Spiegel, who became IDB’s president and CEO one year ago, said the focus of IDB has changed, especially regarding the Jewish community it had "historically neglected," he said.

"Since the bank originated as an international bank, its involvement in the domestic Jewish community was low," Spiegel said. "One of our goals going forward is to get involved."

With $9 billion in assets, IDB is the ninth largest bank in New York City. Its board of directors is looking at a proposed five-year plan. Spiegel also would like to see the bank’s assets grow to $15 billion.

"I will be happy if IDB within five years develops a relatively substantial domestic presence," Spiegel said. "But we’re not going to compete with Wachovia or Chase."

In this task, Rubinstein will be a great asset to the bank because he came with a background in business instead of banking, Spiegel said. "His enthusiasm and connections in the community made him a perfect fit for our needs."

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