Israeli Regulator Considering Steps to Boost Bank Profitability

(Bloomberg) -- Israeli banking supervisor Hedva Ber is seeking ways to help banks become more profitable. She’s already urged them to shutter branches and reduce their workforce and now wants to open up new industries to lenders.

Ber is mulling ways to let banks provide services to Israel’s $174 billion pension market, presently controlled by insurance companies. That could help banks make back the some of the expected losses when new lenders take customers in the small business and consumer loan sectors.

“Banks today are not dominant in the pension advice area, and I think the banks can do much more in this field," Ber, 48, said in an interview. “This could also be a source of revenue for them in the future."

Ber is overseeing changes in the banking sector as lawmakers advance reforms intended to boost competition in the industry. To ensure they stay profitable over the coming years, she’s forcing banks to become leaner and adopt technologies that improve efficiency. She also says that she’s seeking to scrap excessive regulation.

"We are definitely doing a lot in that regard," Ber said. Her responsibility is to "balance some of the regulatory burden,” and enable "banks to have a sustainable business model that will support the economy, be good for the general public and also for shareholders, in terms of dividends," she said.