The senior management of Israel’s Bank Leumi opened the trading day at the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange on Monday morning, to mark 50 years of trading as well as the bank’s 110th anniversary.
Participating in the special event were Bank Leumi’s chairman David Brodet, incoming CEO Rakefet Russak-Aminoach and outgoing CEO Galia Maor.
Brodet told Arutz Sheva that Bank Leumi’s first branch was opened in February of 1902 in London. The bank’s first branches in Israel opened in 1903 in Jerusalem and in Yafo (Jaffa). He added that the bank established itself as a leading bank prior to the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, and that it has been a central bank in Israel since 1948.
In the beginning, Brodet said, Bank Leumi “was a Zionist bank. It was the financial arm of the Zionist movement that was established by Theodore Herzl. The bank declared its willingness to establish financial arms for the national Zionist movement in the second Zionist Congress in 1888.”
“It took about four years to mobilize the money from Jewish households all over Europe and in 1902 the bank was ready enough to be established in London,” said Brodet. “The first name was Anglo-Palestine Bank but in 1948 the name was changed to Bank Leumi Le’Israel.”
Between 1948 and 1954, Bank Leumi was Israel’s central bank, issuing the currency, which at the time was the lira, not the shekel which is in use today. In 1954, the Bank of Israel took over the role of central bank from Bank Leumi.
“Today, we are a commercial bank which does most of its business in Israel, but we also serve the Jewry all over the world,” said Brodet. “We have branches in some central places in the world such as New York, California, London, Luxemburg, Switzerland. We serve the Israeli economy and we are part of the Israeli economy. You can’t see the Israeli economy without Bank Leumi.”
Brodet predicted that in the short-term, there may be some problems for Israel as Europe struggles to recover from its financial difficulties. However, he said, “I’m optimistic about the long-term.”