New initiatives support small businesses in Israel

Bank Hapoalim Israel

Bank Hapoalim, Israel’s largest bank, has announced a new campaign to encourage members to spend money in small and medium businesses, rather than at the major chain retailers.

Hapoalim’s ‘Cash Back’ scheme has been around for several years, giving a percentage of the money spent at selected stores back to the member’s bank account, and providing an incentive to shop at certain places. Now, with 5,000 small businesses signed up to the scheme, Hapoalim wants to announce themed weeks, where members will be encouraged to shop and spend at small flower shops, bakeries, restaurants and garages.

Speaking to The Marker, Bank Hapoalim’s head of market strategy Hila Hermolin-Ronen said: “we plan to offer bank members particularly attractive incentives to shop at stores close to their house, as well as support the small businesses themselves with advertising and exposure.”

Bank Hapoalim isn’t alone. Finance Minister Yair Lapid and Economy Minister Naftali Bennett have been focussing on initiatives to ease the strain and risk on small businesses in Israel. Lapid recently announced a 50 million shekel plan to assist small exporters with foreign trade risk insurance coverage, helping them with the challenges of a difficult exchange rate against the dollar, and vicious competition from other markets around the world.

The Economy Ministry has set up a website with information for small businesses, including guides on setting up, forms and tax calculators, and links to a number of government-backed low-interest loans aimed at small businesses. The ministry also has aid programs for specific sectors of society, encouraging Arab women and ultra-Orthodox men to enter the workforce and set up small businesses. Writing in a New York Times op-ed, Bennett said that he would focus on setting up 21 one-stop employment shops where Arab women from over 60 towns could receive vocational training, small business loans and general business guidance.

Last week, a group of academic and civil experts from the European Union and the OECD met with their Israeli counterparts at a conference on supporting small businesses. The conference focused on three tools the government can use: information centers, free professional advice, and government-backed loans.