Smashing the glass ceiling in the pursuit of Fintech innovation
Earlier this month, The Fintech Times sought insights from Fintech leaders for a feature piece entitled ‘Smashing the glass ceiling’, to showcase their achievements in the pursuit of excellence in financial services. Driven to instill a culture of Fintech innovation from within, and champion the far-reaching potential of digital transformation, Rakefet’s commitment to transforming banking for the new world has been undisputed. Here, in her own words, Rakefet gives expression to her Fintech ascent over a stellar career – an arc of growth that has been anything but traditional.
I would like to think the theme of smashing the glass ceiling has defined my career trajectory to date. My story gives expression to a strong desire to push boundaries and challenge convention.
I remember those early days, in conference halls, surrounded by bankers who looked at me somewhat quizzically, doubting my strong belief in technology as a disruptor to our industry.
I was energized by this potential, and found myself acting as an agent of change, while promoting the ‘digital imperative’.
During my tenure as President & CEO of Leumi, Israel’s largest banking group (by total assets), I had the opportunity to work with some truly brilliant colleagues, and grew to understand how legacy infrastructure was placing a glass ceiling over the industry’s future prospects. Throughout my career and even as a CEO, I was never afraid to immerse myself in new domains, and seek counsel mainly from tech leaders on topics that were foreign to me. Successful transformations do not happen if ego gets in the way.
Under my stewardship, Leumi became Israel’s leading bank in profits, market cap and innovation – spurred by my ambition to instill a culture of innovation within the bank. While broadcasting my vision at international forums, many financial and business leaders questioned the viability of such lofty objectives. Even within the organization, there were many difficult and frank conversations with my colleagues in order to convince them of the merit of adopting a digital-first strategy. This war of attrition underscored the magnitude of my ambitions, and the resistance I would be facing along the way. Undeterred, I took a bet on myself (and my career) as an outspoken critic of conservative incumbent culture and processes, and went on to launch LeumiTech – Leumi’s Hi-Tech arm – and PEPPER – Israel’s first neobank. Not allowing the industry’s risk-averse DNA to halt my progress, I set about digitally rewiring a static and archaic infrastructure – smashing the double-pane glass ceiling in the process.
I’ve been humbled by media recognition of my contributions to banking innovation, and had the distinct pleasure of speaking at a range of global CEO forums. Reflecting back on my career, the transformation I led at Leumi is parallel to the profound professional transformation in my own career. From a background in accounting and banking, I embarked on my own digital pivot, and today I am a Managing Partner at Team8, a leading Israeli venture group, where we build cutting-edge fintech companies that aim to redefine the global landscape of banking and financial services.