So Hedva Ber, the supervisor of banks within Israel’s central bank, is cutting red tape and spurring competition. That includes awarding the first new bank license since the 1970s, to a digital bank led by two tech entrepreneurs—Marius Nacht of cybersecurity company Check Point Software Technologies Ltd. and Amnon Shashua of Mobileye NV, which develops autonomous driving software. Ber said the new branchless bank, which will offer credit and brokerage services, will “lead a change in the market.” With a Ph.D. in economics from Hebrew University, she has spent more than two decades learning about the financial sector from positions within the Bank of Israel and Bank Leumi, the country’s biggest lender by assets. In an interview in Tel Aviv, Ber, 51, described the challenges of moving the industry away from its socialist roots while keeping risks under control.
IVAN LEVINGSTON: How did you get into bank regulation?
HEDVA BER: I started to work in the Bank of Israel at age 25. I fell in love with banking and bank regulation. And in the process of my career, all the different choices I made, I had in the back of my mind that I’d want to one day be the supervisor of banks, and 23 years later I received the position. Today I’ve been doing it for more than four years, and I can say it was the right dream. It’s a significant job—exciting, challenging, and I enjoy it.