Israeli digital bank One Zero, controlled by Prof. Amnon Shashua, is set to expand to Italy and is in advanced talks with Italy's Generali bank (Banca Generali Priavate). The talks, which began last summer, with the signing of a memorandum of understanding have 'heated up' in the past few days. The two sides are in advanced negotiations over the terms of the agreement, as part of which, they plan to raise money from investors, to carry out the expansion.
As the agreement comes to fruition, the launch of which also depends on receiving approval from the Supervisor of Banks at the Bank of Israel, a holding company will be set up headed by current One Zero CEO Gal Bar Dea. This company will own three subsidiaries: the bank in Israel; a tech company providing services to other subsidiaries; and the digital bank that will be founded in Italy.
In order to found the Italian bank, it has been agreed that former N26 digital bank general manager Italy Matteo Concas will be brought in as CEO. The new Italian bank will also be owned by Generali bank.
One Zero's new structure, as a holding company under which other banks operate, will allow expansion to additional countries as long as the collaboration in Italy is successful. According to sources in the banking system, this is a common model of organizing digital banking companies.
Gal Bar Dea's position as CEO of Bank One Zero in Israel is expected to be taken by the current CFO of the bank, Eyal Geffen. Bar Dea is not expected to leave Israel for the position and will continue to manage the holding company from Israel.
Laying off 10% of workforce in Israel
The expansion to Italy will put the bank's expenses under pressure, because it will be necessary to hire dozens of employees in Italy for the new digital bank there. Consequently, One Zero in Israel will implement streamlining measures including laying off 10% of its employees - between 35 and 45 employees out of 400 staff employed by the bank today.
Shashua already has a bank permit from the Bank of Israel, and One Zero's shareholders, with no more than a 5% stake according to the terms of Israeli regulation, include China's Tencent Group, Hachshara Insurance, French bank May Money, Swiss investment bank Julius Baer, venture investment platform OurCrowd, and others.
In October, One Zero was preparing to raise $75-$100 million abroad, at a higher valuation than the $320 million in its previous financing round. The bank had previously tried to raise $100-200 million in early 2023 but then lowered the bar.
One Zero is still loss-making, as far as is known but in presentations says it plans to transition to profitability within two years. The digital bank estimates that 75% of the current fundraising amount is intended for investment in operations in Israel, and the rest in its operations in Europe. The launch of the activity in Italy, according to the presentation to investors in October, is expected in the second half of 2025. One Zero began the process of obtaining regulatory approvals in Italy last June.
Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on January 8, 2024.
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