By: Ben Kohane  | 

Barclays CEO and Think Tank Founder Highlight YU Event

Last weekend, a trio of Yeshiva University student organizations teamed up to host two top Israeli business leaders in an event entitled “Israel: Beyond the Apps,” which featured a pair of presentations followed by an interactive forum for questions. The evening featured both Leonard Rosen, currently the CEO of Barclays Israel – a division of one of the largest banks in the world – as well as Gidi Grinstein, the founder and president of the Reut Institute, one of Israel's most prominent think tanks on economics and public policy. Organized by the YU Israel Club, the YU Investment Club, and YU’s TAMID chapter, the event drew a varied audience, from finance and economics majors to those interested in making Aliyah, and was well-received by all who attended.

The event began with opening remarks and introductions from TAMID co-presidents and Syms juniors Ezra Kapetanksy and Ariel Mintz. TAMID, the campus group which provides its members with an integrated financial education curriculum, opportunities for pro-bono consulting for Israeli startups, market investment research, and more, took lead on the event, including finding the speakers. “Tonight you will have the opportunity to hear insights that you will not hear anywhere else,” Mintz declared.

Rosen was the first to step up, and he began his presentation by going through his personal career path – he began his journey to CEO of Barclays Israel as a lawyer for Cravath in New York – as well as detailing the development of investment banking in Israel. Investment banking, as Rosen explained to the non-finance majors in the room, focuses on helping corporations raise money, whether through arranging IPO’s, which allows companies to “go public” and issue stock, organizing mergers and acquisitions (M&A), and more. The investment banking market in Israel, with the proliferation of technology companies and others in recent years, has expanded tremendously; Rosen listed dozens of big-ticket deals which both wowed and impressed students.

Rosen went on to describe Israel as “a foreign trade-driven, knowledge-based, tech-oriented economy.” By favorably marketing Israel to investors, by explaining that political unrest does not translate into financial volatility, simplifying transactions, and more, his bank helps cultivate the companies that are transforming Israel every day.

The think tank founder Grinstein similarly detailed his personal experiences before detailing his organization’s objectives and current policy projects. He first confirmed a Wikipedia-sourced anecdote mentioned by Mintz in his introduction of the Reut Institute’s president; Grinstein was indeed a member of then-Prime Minister Ehud Barak’s team and saved Barak using the Heimlich maneuver during the 2000 Camp David Summit in Maryland. During his sponsored fellowship at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government after serving in the Israeli Navy, Grinstein first began to “realize how weak current forms of government were and their inability to deal with real challenges of society.”

After returning to Israel, Grinstein began to focus his efforts on emphasizing the economy on a local level. Instead of “trickle-down effects,” Israeli society needed to focus on developing a network of prosperous and resilient communities by incorporating dedicated local institutions and civic leadership. From revamping the economy of Tzfat to training Haredi men and women in technological skills, his group has effected massive change in a number of important public policy projects.

In the ensuing question and answer session, the two speakers fielded questions that ranged from investor reluctance to philanthropy. Rosen cited the business lifecycle and the fact that “companies get sold or grow, depending on what is best for investors,” in response to a question inquiring why tech companies were seemingly encouraged to leave Israel in M&A deals.

Another student asked for advice for “students who want to live and work in Israel but are hesitant because of housing market, unstable job market, and current political situation.” Both speakers were encouraging, urging students considering Aliyah to “focus on niche markets” and see their initial job as simply a “launching pad.”

Grinstein especially appreciated “the deep interest and great questions by the students. Such conversations are what these events should be all about. YU students are the exactly the kind of people I should be meeting,” he continued. “[They are] passionate about Israel and all things Jewish, smart, educated, and nice.”

Billed as “The Premier Israel Business Event of the Year” by its flyers, the event was especially important and interesting to other members of YU’s TAMID chapter, who are currently working in projects of consulting and investment fund management. Sarah Varon, a senior and marketing major, acknowledged that “the event was extremely successful. [All] were able to glean a unique insight on the Israeli economic landscape.”

Jessica Rogelberg (Syms ’17), who joined TAMID to explore the fascinating business world in Israel, agreed that “the speakers really complimented each other. [The speakers provided] a very complete picture of what’s going on in Israel, from the booming tech scene to critical social problems.”

The TAMID co-presidents were extremely pleased with how the event turned out. Mintz highlighted the “interesting conversation between the two sides of Israel” and the role of its growing technology sector. Kapetansky recognized that YU was “privileged to get these two prominent leaders in Israeli business and economics… [to] share complementing perspectives on Israeli innovation.”

Israel Club board member Shlomo Anapolle (YC ’16) summed up by sharing a lesson from the event: “If you put your mind to something in Israel, the stars are the limit.”

For an event titled “Israel: Beyond the Apps,” the interactive event truly provided a deeper look into the high-tech nature of Israel’s growing economy and provided a pair of enlightening perspectives on where this economic landscape is developing.