If a financial adviser asked a prospective client about the value of his combined assets, or how much his pension is worth, it’s unlikely that the client could respond with precise figures. “People usually don’t know the answers to those questions,” says Gil Tsabar, Chief Information Officer at Meitav Dash, one of Israel’s leading investment houses. “And they don’t like to ask them because they’re afraid of the answers.”
Three years ago, Tsabar and the IT team at Meitav Dash set about transforming the firm’s systems, processes and, most importantly, the way it interacts with its customers in the digital age. The company — which manages mutual funds, investment portfolios and pensions, among other purpose funds — realisedrealized that overhauling its tech capabilities would provide it with a competitive advantage.
As it stands, Meitav Dash controls over US $37 billion on behalf of private, business and public sector clients. In 2014, it had already developed a plan called ‘2020’ to outline the steps needed to facilitate the process of modernization.
“We had a few targets that we put in front of us,” Tsabar explains. “One of them was to provide a much better service to our customers, especially the young ones that don’t want paperwork in their homes, or to wait for 20 minutes on the phone to find out their account information.”
The drive to update the company’s digital infrastructure was strategically aligned with the background of its directors and senior management. According to Tsabar, the majority of Meitav Dash’s c-level staff launched their careers Israel’s banking\Insurance sector, where technology is better integrated and developed. Two years ago, they became the first investment house in Israel to offer mutual funds for online purchase. However, it was only a matter of time before other prominent investment houses sought to improve customer experience through digitization.
“We saw that if we don’t transform, we will probably be left behind,” Tsabar says. “Because others will do it, and they will then be more efficient and offer better services than we can provide.”
Laying the groundwork
Meitav Dash started by ensuring ‘the basics’ were in place: faster servers, faster storage and heightened security surrounding these new systems. Given the amount of confidential financial information stored within the firm’s computing network, security was a paramount concern. Integrity Solutions supplied the company with a managed security solution equipped to deter a variety of cyber-threats.
“Before, you’d have to go into an office to locate paperwork or break into a bank,” says Tsabar of the theft of business information. “Now, you can just hack into a computer system. It’s much more risky. Efficiency of the computer systems and cyber-security were the first levels that we took on.”
Next, Tsabar and his team sought out various pieces of advanced software and hardware, sourcing products from renowned tech suppliers like Cisco and INFINIDAT. After that, they took on data management and business intelligence systems, with the ultimate aim of reducing human intervention in business operations.
“We did a lot of work automating processes that were done by hand because we understood that in the digital world, a person can’t wait,” Tsabar says. “If he sends an email or fills a web form because he wants to come onboard and buy a mutual fund, for example, he can’t wait a week until he gets his approval. He wants it done the minute he signs up online.”
As such, it was also crucial that Meitav Dash’s online presence was equipped with a user-friendly interface, which could be navigated from a computer screen, as well as a phone or tablet. For this, the company enlisted Aman, an interface designer also based in Israel. When deciding which technologies he would source from external providers, Tsabar looked to partners to provide expertise that he didn’t have in-house. He actively avoids trying to “invent the wheel” with a new business enterprise. “You have to find people and work with them to reach your goals,” he says.
When it came to assembling an in-house team to run all of Meitav Dash’s day-to-day IT operations, Tsabar looked for colleagues with experience in business as well as computing technologies. He believes that the best technicians can also understand the value of their work from a business intelligence point of view. This integration of commercial skills and practical knowledge has come to characterize the firm’s approach to technology.
“I think that in a digital transformation there is much to be done on the human side,” Tsabar says. “We in IT need to understand the language of business to talk with the businesspeople. Many times I explain myself as a translator — from computer languages to business languages.”
In the process of designing their new web interface, Tsabar and his team also made sure to collaborate with the most important user of all: the customer. Simplicity and transparency were the values at the core of Meitav Dash’s customer-facing digital initiative and the firm made sure to hold ‘brainstorm’ sessions with clients during the design process. While Tsabar reports that the company has made major strides, he realizes that the process of serving customers is an ongoing one.
“[Our technology] will have more functionality with time,” he explains. “We’ll learn what the customer wants. It’s progress. It’s not something you build overnight.”
Naturally, big data will play a role in analyzing customer expectations. And for Meitav Dash, the more information they have about a client’s needs, the more tailored their service can be. Ultimately, this is the aim of the firm’s digital transformation.
“I don’t believe in the buzzword ‘big data’. I believe that big data is a nice way of saying business intelligence,” claims Tsabar. “If you analyze your data correctly and intelligently, you will retain more customers and, using your data, you can attract new customers in the right way.”
While 2020 might still be a few years away, there is little doubt that ‘the future’ is already here for Meitav Dash.