Leumi, an Israeli-listed bank, is currently in talks with prospective partners regarding the launch of Pepper, its celebrated online-only bank, in the US.
This endeavor is set to be the newest challenge to the exorbitant fees that most of the leading street lenders in America have been charging for decades.
Pepper was established back in mid-2017 to “disrupt from the inside.”
Since then, it has garnered a lot of praise thanks to its revolutionary technology and is currently opening additional accounts each day than its parent banking institution does across all its 250 Israeli-based brick-and-mortar branches.
“We said we wanted to go overseas and we searched wide,” Rakefet Russak-Aminoach, Bank Leumi’s CEO, said in New York.
He added that inquiries from potential partners and foreign banks influenced the bank’s desire for expansion.
After assessing markets such as India and the UK, the bank chose the US as its first global venture due to its size and because “(US banks) are very advanced in some areas, but in some aspects, they’re so behind in basic banking,” said Ms Russak-Aminoach.
Bank Leumi chose to initiate self-disruption through creating a completely-mobile, digital banking institution from the ground up.
Ms Russak-Aminoach is far from being the first individual to identify an opportunity in this market, whereby big banking institutions’ costly branch networks are backed by layers of fees for all transactions including ATM cash withdrawals and wire transfers.
Goldman Sachs ventured into the US online banking space two years back, with its launch of Marcus.
Also, Barclays intends to establish a full online bank in the US by 2019.
Other regional banking institutions like Capital One have come up with online spin-offs.
On the other hand, pure online banks like Ally are currently trying to challenge traditional banks, whereas fintechs such as Robinhood, a share trading platform are looking forward to offering banking services.
Ms Russak-Aminoach asserted that Pepper had plans to be a scale player and would collaborate with an entity that already boasts a massive national customer base in the US.
“We. . . are currently pursuing several options for collaborations in the US with significant and interesting players,” she said but failed to disclose their identities.
She added that it was early to speculate the amount of financing that the US Company would have.
However, bank Leumi would only have a minority shareholding in the company.
Currently, shareholders’ capital in bank Leumi is estimated to be nearly $10 billion.
Ms Russak-Aminoach is convinced that Pepper’s technology would set it apart from its competitors.
In fact, she said: “While most digital banks today are simply a new interface built on top of old legacy systems, Bank Leumi decided to deliberately create a self-disruption by building a fully-mobile, digital bank from the ground up.”
Artificial intelligence is a key aspect, which “allows us to get to know our customers, customize relevant content and offer them a personalized banking experience that differs from person to person — one that is completely different from the traditional banking language we have come to know.”