Professor Amnon Shashua, founder of Mobileye, is to become the sole controlling shareholder of a new digital bank set to begin operations next year. Shashua will buy out his partner, Marius Nacht, a co-founder of Israeli cybersecurity startup Check Point Software.
The two tech entrepreneurs originally partnered to establish the new digital bank — the first new bank in the country in 40 years — after receiving a nod from Israel’s central bank last September. Nacht made a decision to “focus on new, meaningful healthcare and biomed ventures,” according to a press statement.
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Under the new agreement, Shashua will buy all of Nacht’s holdings in the digital bank after which he will take on all the responsibilities as the sole controlling shareholder, with respect to the digital bank and the Bank of Israel. These responsibilities include investing $30 million more (in addition to the $30 million he had previously committed to the bank.)
The new arrangement is currently pending the Bank of Israel’s approval.
“We received with understanding Marius’ decision to end his role in the establishment of the digital bank. Marius, an accomplished entrepreneur, has contributed greatly to the founding of the bank,” said Shuki Oren, chair at the digital bank.
“The joint decision was taken based on a mutual commitment to ensure the continued evolution of this important venture of a new digital bank for Israel. The upcoming change in the controlling structure of the Bank will have no impact on our work plan, which we continue to implement as planned,” he explained.
The bank expects to launch in the second half of 2021, he said.
The new bank will be a welcome addition to Israel’s banking sector which is dominated by Bank Leumi and Bank Hapoalim. The duopoly has approximately 55 percent of the market share, and each run their own digital banking units, Pepper and Bit, respectively. A number of smaller banks including Bank Mizrahi-Tfahot, Benleumi, and Bank Discount, also operate in the sector.
“I am convinced that the digital bank offers a unique opportunity for implementing a significant transformation of the economy and take the financial industry to a better technological future for consumers,” Prof. Shashua said of his decision to take on the leadership role.
“The past few months reinforced my passion for making technological revolutions that would shape the new financial-consumer reality post the COVID-19 crisis,” he added.
The bank is currently completing the configuration of its products, services, and regulatory work processes and is setting up its various departments, including customer support and service, banking operating teams, and more, according to the announcement.
The bank recently entered a mutual inter-bank recognition agreement to allow its customers to withdraw cash from ATMs of all other banks in Israel. It is also completing the process of becoming a member of the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange, as well as the necessary agreements required to allow its customers to trade in other stock exchanges worldwide.
Shashua, a computer science professor, co-founded Mobileye, a developer of vision-based advanced driver-assistance systems, in 1999 with Ziv Amiram. Intel acquired Mobileye for $15.3 billion in 2017, the largest exit for an Israeli company so far. Shashua serves as Mobileye’s CEO and is senior vice president at Intel. He is also co-founder of vision assistance company OrCam Technologies.