Team8 nabs former Bank Leumi CEO Rakefet Russak-Aminoach for Fintech team

Team8 Fintech will focus on founding, investing and growing fintech companies, the company says; Team8 sets up cyber and data companies, and has a VC arm

Shoshanna Solomon is The Times of Israel's Startups and Business reporter

Team8's Fintech team: Yuval Tal, left to right, Rakefet Russak-Aminoach, Galia Beer-Gabel and Ronen Assia (Ron Kedmi)
Team8's Fintech team: Yuval Tal, left to right, Rakefet Russak-Aminoach, Galia Beer-Gabel and Ronen Assia (Ron Kedmi)

Israel’s Team8, which creates and invests in cybersecurity, AI and big data startups, is setting up a new arm, led by former president and CEO of Bank Leumi Le-Israel Ltd Rakefet Russak-Aminoach, to expand its reach to the financial technologies tech sector.

Team8 Fintech will focus on founding, investing and growing fintech companies, the company said in a statement on Tuesday. Team8 Group currently operates Team8 Enterprise, a “foundry” arm that creates cyber and data companies, and Team8 Capital, an investment arm that funds existing startups.

The founder and president of digital payments unicorn Payoneer, Yuval Tal, and founder and former chief product officer of social trading network eToro, Ronen Assia, will also lead the team. Galia Beer-Gabel, former head of business development for PayPal across Eastern Europe, Israel and Africa, will also be part of the founding team.

“Covid-19 has paved the way to hyper digitization, accelerating trends and expectations both at the business level and for consumers across all age groups,” the statement said. This has caused a decline in the use of cash, the decreasing relevance of brick and mortar bank and financial services branches, and a recent surge in the opening of digital-only bank accounts.

All of this has added changes to a global financial services sector that was already undergoing a major transformation, including a digital revolution. Regulations such as “open banking” encourage competition, provide users with more control over their data, and allow them to easily migrate and adopt new financial services. Technology has made it easier to conduct business from afar, and “Covid-19 has fast-forwarded today’s market needs by a decade,” the statement said.

Team8 Fintech will seek to create both business to business (B2B) and business to consumer (B2C) companies that will provide financial sector firms with new technologies and new tools to give them a competitive edge.

The model used to build these new fintech firms will be based on the “foundry model” of company building adopted by Team8 for the other sectors it is active in, like cybersecurity and AI. Team8 Fintech will partner with entrepreneurs to co-found new startups, and grow them using its ties to investors, corporate executives, and the in-house researchers, marketers and business development professionals that are based in Tel Aviv and New York, the statement said.

Russak-Aminoach has been listed as one of Fortune Magazine’s “100 Most Powerful Women” three times since 2015 and included in the BBC’s “100 Most Inspirational and Influential Women.” At Bank Leumi, Russak-Aminoach set out digital transformation strategies including the establishment of LeumiTech, the group’s high-tech banking arm, and the, launched its digital banking unit Pepper.

“The financial industry is facing a perfect storm, with inevitable changes and advancements already underway,” said Russak-Aminoach in the statement. “Understanding the challenges and complexities of incumbents or other enterprises to innovate from within, my passion is to build the type of companies I would have wanted to collaborate with in my previous role as CEO of a bank. I see great opportunities in leveraging new technologies to completely reinvent financial services, drive efficiency and improve customer experience.”

“Assembling this all-star team is a rare event and is gearing us with the talent, gravitas and exceptional leadership skills to build transformative fintech companies. This cements another important milestone in Team8’s journey as we expand our foundry model and become a multi-sector venture group.” said Team8 co-founder Nadav Zafrir in the statement.

Founded in 2014, Team8 is led by graduates of Israel’s tech and intelligence Unit 8200 and is backed by companies including Microsoft, Walmart, Cisco, Barclays and Moody’s.

Team8’s foundry activity has spurred the development of cybersecurity startups including Sygnia, which was sold to Temasek for $250 million; Claroty, which has raised $100 million in funding; Illusive Networks, which has raised $48 million in funding, and Hysolate.

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