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TD to open cybersecurity office in Israel

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The Toronto-Dominion Bank is opening a new office in Tel Aviv to tap Israel’s cybersecurity expertise – a first for any Canadian bank.

The bank and its subsidiaries, collectively known as TD Bank Group, plans to invest between $3 million to $5 million annually in its Tel Aviv office and aims to hire as many as 12 staff members within the coming year, according to Jeff Henderson, TD’s chief information officer.

Israel, he added, has a deep pool of cybersecurity talent at universities and in the military. “With the Israeli office, TD will now have a more direct line into Israel’s cyber and technology talent ecosystem,” the bank said in a statement.

“The demand for cybersecurity talent is at an all-time high, by everybody, and the supply in North America is limited. So it requires us to be more creative,” Henderson told The Canadian Press. “This is good evidence that we’re willing to go outside of our borders, outside of our market and to open an office in order to get that talent.”

“Customers and employees need to transact with confidence in the digital era,” the bank said in a statement. “In Israel, TD will tap into one of the world’s deepest pools of talent and know-how in cybersecurity.”

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While TD is the first bank in Canada to open a dedicated office in Israel, it is not the first Canadian bank to tap into the country’s technology and innovation hub, according to the Financial Post.

Just over a year ago, the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce formed a strategic alliance with Israel’s Bank Leumi and  the National Australia Bank to collaborate on digital banking, financial technology and cybersecurity, FP reported.

Tel Aviv – among other Israeli cities such as Be’er Sheva, Haifa and Jerusalem – “has become a global epicentre for cyber defence technology, processes and systems to both protect and power the next generation of digital innovation and capability,” TD noted.

“While global companies – from airlines and manufacturers, to banks and retailers – have set up operations in Israel to leverage the country’s growing cybersecurity ecosystem, TD is the first Canadian bank to open a dedicated office in Tel Aviv for this purpose.”

IT World Canada reported that Henderson and other TD executives traveled to Israel earlier this year for meetings with government officials, the Canadian ambassador and venture capital firms.

Since 2012, Israel “has declared a mission to be one of the top five cyber nations in the world able to protect infrastructure, companies and people – spawning a thriving cybersecurity industry,” IT World Canada noted.

“We’re on a journey to build an innovation ecosystem within the bank and we need to attract diverse and highly-skilled talent, among them technical cybersecurity professionals,” said Henderson. “To fuel our innovation, TD is in search of diverse hot skills and perspectives from a wide range of fields, including cyber.”

He said the Israel office, which IT World Canada called a “lab,” will focus on two key areas of cybersecurity: protective capabilities and detective capabilities.

TD’s announcement came soon after the credit data company Equifax announced that it suffered a massive cyberattack this past summer that compromised the personal information of roughly 143-million American consumers and a “limited” number of Canadian and British people.

“You can’t build necessarily the perfect, impenetrable defence. Nobody can,” Henderson told CP. “But it’s important that your ear is to the ground, so to speak, and know what’s going on from a threat perspective. Being in Israel will give us an extra avenue.”

In 2014, two Israeli universities made a list of the top 100 schools in the world for cyber research, put together by an expert at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. BGU ranked 49th, while the Technion – Israel Institute of Science came in 91st.

A 2015 profile in Fortune magazine noted that Israel, “a regional power devoted to ensuring its own survival, has burgeoned into a high-tech epicentre built around Internet security, anti-virus software and other cyber defence technologies. Much of this is an extension of its self-reliance, and the added fact that since the creation of modern Israel, the nation has faced enemies on its borders.”

TD is the sixth largest bank in North America by branches and serves more than 25-million customers in several areas, including retail, auto finance, direct investing, insurance and securities.

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