Your Haas Network
Yossi Bachar, MBA 85, Ph.D. 87
Executive Committee Chairman, University of Haifa
Former Director General,
Israel Ministry of Finance
Tel Aviv, Israel
Doctoral studies at Berkeley are easy for no one. Yossi Bachar, MBA 85, Ph.D. 87, who would one day become director general of Israel's Finance Ministry, found them particularly jolting.
"UC Berkeley was the first place in which I felt I was under pressure to study hard," says Bachar, who had been an outstanding undergraduate at Hebrew University. "During my first ten weeks at Berkeley, I studied more than in all of my undergraduate studies put together."
He learned finance and banking from David Pyle, now the Willis H. Booth Professor Emeritus of Banking and Finance at Haas, as well as economics from future Nobel laureate George Akerlof in the Department of Economics.
Perhaps most importantly, Bachar learned "how to approach a problem, how to analyze it."
Akerlof, he says, urged him to "try to solve any problem first in the simplest form. If it works, move forward; if it doesn't work, then the theory doesn't work. So try something else."
Enduring Berkeley's rigors gave Bachar confidence years later, when the Israeli government tapped him to address the near-total control the five largest Israeli banks had over the nation's capital market. Businesses that needed capital had virtually nowhere else to go. As director general of the Finance Ministry, Bachar called on the habits ingrained in him from Berkeley to institute a series of capital market reforms.
"At the first meeting of the Bachar Committee, I said, 'We are going to approach this problem from scratch. What is the main problem? There's not enough competition in the capital markets. How can we fix that?'" recalls Bachar, who was previously a managing director at Arthur Andersen in Israel. "This line of thinking was enhanced significantly by my Berkeley education."
And that line of thinking led to the "Bachar Reform," which forced the nation's top five banks to release their control over provident and mutual funds. By opening those funds to new players, the reforms that Bachar helped develop have been cited as a main factor contributing to Israel's swing from a recession in 2003 to a boom in 2005.
In addition to Berkeley, Bachar credits some of his success to timing and luck. "In a crisis, people are willing to accept tough measures," says Bachar, who now runs his own consulting firm and is chairman of the executive committee of the University of Haifa.
As the Finance Ministry's director general, Bachar also led Israel's economic discussions with the United States. Whoever wins the presidential election, he believes the relationship will remain close. Bachar says, "America and Israel share so many joint interests."