I was born in Israel, where I received my BA and MA from Hebrew University of Jerusalem in International Relations and Psychology. I am an only child, so it was natural for me to seek an MBA degree so I could run my father's business. I came to the US to get the degree, and studied at American University in Washington DC, where my husband at the time was the Assistant Military Attache for the Israeli embassy. I also worked full time as a clerk in the secondary mortgage department of American Savings and Loan, soon to be acquired by Perpetual American.
One day John Thompson, the CFO, spotted me reading a Finance book, and asked how come a clerk was reading such a book. One thing led to another, and I got involved in figuring out the formula for the net present value of mortgages enabling American S&L to issue one of the first Mortgage Backed Securities in the country.
Upon graduation I joined Arthur Young (the predecessor to Ernst and Young) in Washington, DC. Soon I realized that the bulk of the work involves the government as a client, which I found less gratifying than working for profit-oriented entities. My mentor, John Madden, recommended that I find a client base to focus on as an alternative. Since I knew no one in Washington, I borrowed the Notre-Dame alumni directory for Washington from Pat Minan, an alumnus. I cold-called everyone in the directory and asked them to lunch so I can learn more about their business. This led to some consulting work, but the breakthrough came when I met Denis O'Toole, now the Chief Lobbyist for Household International. Denis was a junior lobbyist for the American Bankers Association, and he introduced me to their Director of Research. The next time ABA solicited proposals, Arthur Young and I were included.
AY won that proposal, and much additional work came from that initial engagement. I was promoted to the National Director of Bank Consulting for the Firm, and was moved to New York City.
Consulting was challenging and demanding work, and I loved it. However, one of my clients asked me to join their bank, Marine Midland (now HSBC), in New York, and develop the Bank's strategic plan. I took the job, and followed the plan by implementation from the Capital markets side of the house. That's where I learned from Jacques Dejoux that the most important thing about trading is discipline, from Steve Schwimmer about the embryonic world of derivatives, and from Kim Hobbs about Asset-Liability Management.
I was excited when, in the mid-eighties, Tom Donovan, Vice Chairman of Marine Midland and a board member of Colonial Penn, the insurance company, suggested, through an executive search firm, that I help the Company build a by-mail bank from a charter. It was a major move, mostly because folks said no one will send their money by mail to an unknown institution. Of course, we know better now
Colonial Penn's General Counsel was a handsome individual named Dick Bird. We fell in love and got married, and I quit the bank to have a couple of children. Our overall total is six, five boys and a girl, and I consider my family my greatest accomplishment.
When Liat, our only daughter, was a year old I joined BDO Seidman to build the Financial Institutions consulting practice. It was a very successful venture, but eventually I felt that being an entrepreneur was my calling. I left the Firm and started my own consulting business. We had offices on Fifth Avenue and a great client base. One of the unique things we offered were our SuperCommunity Bank Forums, peer groups where bank CEOs, CFOs and other key roles could compare notes candidly and productively. It was the single greatest learning tool I had, both as a consultant and subsequently as a bank executive and CEO. I still hold these Forums regularly.
The term SuperCommunity Banking, which I created and wrote a couple of books about, became an industry-accepted term. We saw it in annual reports and investor presentations. I still feel very proud every time the term is used.
Stan Bradshaw, the CEO and Chairman of Roosevelt Financial, a $9 billion thrift in St. Louis, was one of our Forum attendees. Following one of the meetings, he asked if I'd be interested in helping transform Roosevelt into a franchise-oriented community bank. I was honored to be asked, and appreciated deeply Stan's faith in my executive abilities. He has been my mentor then and ever since. I admire him greatly and have learned much from him.
At the very same time, IBM offered to buy the consulting part of my company. I gladly sold that part to them, since it promised job continuity to the team. I kept the Forums then and now, because they are the best source of ideas and industry knowledge I know.
Roosevelt was a fantastic experience. I learned an enormous amount from Stan and the rest of the team, and the balance sheet and sales results moved very fast toward the desired levels. After a short 18 months we sold the Company to Mercantile, with a P/E that grew from 7 to 11.6.
Norwest was one of the banks interested in buying Roosevelt, and I was honored when Les biller offered me the opportunity to work there after the sale of Roosevelt was announced. Norwest was the quintessential SuperCommunity Bank, and Dick Kovacevich the greatest bank CEO in the country. It was a very special experience to join that executive team.
I learned much from Les and Dick, most of all about the difference scale makes in pace, patience and individual expectations. I learned how critical teamwork and partnership are to make the whole greater than the sum of the parts. And I learned much about the art of integration of two very different companies toward creating a unique, best-of-both-worlds franchise.
My Norwest, and subsequently Wells Fargo, experience has been invaluable. I'm proud to have been a member of that team of eagles. But community banking was calling, and I returned to my roots at California Community Bancshares. However, when the owners' strategic direction changed, we agreed that the new strategic direction did not warrant the growth-oriented execution that I'm committed to. We agreed to disagree.
I am now thoroughly enjoying a great mix of activities: