Companies across the globe are coping with major disruption caused by enterprises such as Amazon in retail and Uber in transportation. Where are they innovating and seeking growth? Gabriel Hamani is CEO of BHI, a division of Bank Hapoalim, Israel’s leading financial institution. He discusses some of the key trends BHI is seeing among its clients across the many industries the bank serves.

What are some of the challenges companies are facing?

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Almost every industry is dealing with rapid change and major shifts in the conventional way of doing business. Technology, data analytics, changing consumer priorities, innovation and new categories are contributing to the evolution and growth of companies. According to an article in the Harvard Business Review, enterprises of all sizes are assessing the benefits, costs and risks of what HBR calls ‘self-disruption.’

Companies have access to a tremendous amount of data as they never had before, and are looking to leverage new technologies such as AI and machine learning. Managers the world over are dealing with changes in the workforce and the impact of the gig economy, in which employees serve as independent contractors instead of taking traditional, full-time jobs. There are huge demographic shifts posed by tech-savvy Millennials and Gen Z, who are very discerning. They research products before they purchase and make their demands clearly known online. Younger consumers want the brands they buy to be more transparent, to adhere to a higher set of values and better sustainability.

Can you provide an example of a client sector undergoing rapid change?

In food and beverage, consumers are concerned with what they are eating, with health and wellness, and the environmental impact. They are demanding ‘better-for-you’ products and that food and beverage companies make sustainability a norm. These concerns have influenced companies to create new product lines and practices that are fueling growth within the industry. With the consumer demand for transparency and specialty products that are in line with some of the food trends such as Keto, organic, non-GMO and gluten-free, we’re seeing more food and beverage companies adapting and in certain cases creating completely new product offerings.

How is real estate adapting?

We work with all types of real estate companies across asset classes, from major developers and sponsors to prop-tech companies providing new solutions in commercial, residential, construction and real estate investment. For example, we’re proud to have participated in the financing of new development projects across industries such as commercial, retail, hotel and leisure here in New York City, as well as other major US markets. At the same time, our clients also include diverse start-ups with innovative e-commerce platforms. New platforms connect global investors to US real estate opportunities; offer insurance risk management; provide real estate data; handle commercial appraisals, automate construction supply, collect renters’ security deposits, and even provide an automated doorman.

The key is innovation, no matter the scope of your enterprise. Both new and established developers and building owners are looking to innovate in the area of sustainability. This situation is especially true in New York, which just enacted new energy-efficiency requirements.

So the entrepreneurial spirit is critical.

Absolutely. Israel is known as the Start-Up Nation, and we’re affiliated with an Israeli bank. We extend an entrepreneurial spirit to every client. Technology is certainly a critical area for us, both in terms of US entrepreneurs, as well as assisting Israeli start-ups to establish themselves in the US. New technology initiatives are also important for us internally, such as instituting a new online platform and a new CRM system.

Given BHI’s rapid growth within the middle market, what makes this segment unique and attractive?

The middle market is our niche. We like middle market companies because they are established, with market share and long-term growth potential. In fact, they are in a prime position for growth. They have the capital and financial flexibility to invest, whether it’s by incorporating new technology or by developing a new product. Middle market companies also have the advantage of being nimble and more flexible about change, and they tend to take a longer view of growth for the future.

The business landscape continues to change dramatically. How have client expectations changed for bankers?

Clients expect us to understand their business models and the market dynamics that affect their companies. They also want a strategic partner that also champions their growth. Our responsibility toward our clients is beyond providing just financial solutions. We think it is essential to evolve and provide them with the most innovative solutions such a reporting, advanced mobile and online banking platforms, and personalized customer service. It’s not enough to just provide financial solutions; we must be part of their ecosystem.

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This Article first appeared in jpost

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