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My friendship with MORDECAI compares to an artistic photo of water. Time changes its colors, sound and shapes.
Since I met MORDECAI much has changed in his world, and much has changed in mine.
During my career in the insurance industry, and my work with Harold.
I started to hear of MORDECAI, the Life and Health Insurance manager of the “Israeli Phoenix” Insurance company, a market leader at the time. Harold used to talk a lot about M. He quoted his professional wisdom, his jokes, his ideas. They used to meet a lot and share professional challenges and friendship. I got the impression that the friendship was strong and unique.
“Friendship is one of the most important pillars of my life” M said in the conversations we had preparing for this article. “My friends are a rich and important part of my life. I always knew that my family could not fill the gaps that only my friends could. I lived my life involved with and interested in my close friends and the emotional and intellectual reward for that was far reaching,” he told me.
As I am listening to this part in our conversation, I am thinking that he is indeed involved in my life. He is interested to hear of my career, of my dilemmas, of my thoughts, plans and achievements. I dare say, that I might have found my way onto the golden and carefully selected list of his friends.
Indeed, he knows of the issues which dominate my life, my dilemmas, my plans, my achievements.
Sometimes it feels as if he is short on the giving of compliments, but it is clear that he has an eye for values and quality. I know that I am allowed to book M’s attention for any of my issues at any time. I would be eligible for his ears, time and advice. When your issues connect with the territory of his natural-born intelligence and eighty years of experience, you want to hear that advice.
At the age of twelve, his parents made the “Alya” to Israel.
They left their home country of Romania in the waves of the moving to the newly revived Jewish State. The State of Israel.
His father was a merchant, and had to leave when the Romanian authorities confiscated the property and the shop of his family. In Israel, the newcomer and father to Mr HERSCOVICI went on with his trade. In a small textile shop in Tel Aviv MORDECAI’s father has earned out a living.
It took three years of hardships before the family were able to live in a house of their own. They were sharing rooms, apartments and common bathrooms, living in tumbling wooden shacks and like many others, they tried to make it in the newly born society. “The real wonder is how living went so well in a world with no mobile phones,” M shares a funny observation.
“My parents could still schedule a gathering to play cards with their friends. We had everything we needed, we never felt we were lacking in anything,” says M.
Until recruited into the army, M did not think that going to school was the exact and right option for him. At that time, it was also very easy to escape the education system. M would not tell you that “shortcuts” around high school created any shortcoming in his life. He learnt how to make it with his original thinking and creativity. This would pay off generously later on.
“Sir!” M called me when I first entered his office… he stood up to shake my hand. Not a very common gesture in the Israeli business life when managers are as senior as their ego.
I was a career-starting insurance salesman, and he was one of the most requested managers in the industry. His office was different from the rest, furnished with fine full Mahogany antique furniture and artistic objects. His speech was fluent and focused on the topic, and yet you felt secure under his managements. M was leading the life insurance division of the Phoenix Insurance company in Israel, but practically, he was one of the outstanding leaders of the industry.
Jospeh HACKMEY, the president and owner of the company put his trust in M and in others, like Arie-Weiss, plus a few other promising young managers who were given the special task to create a state-of-the-art leading life insurance company, and beat down the competition. M asked for two sales supervisors to teach them the newly born concept of sales. Joseph said OK, but… 20, why bother with just two?
That was the start of the new life insurance company which later on became the beacon to the whole industry. “We created a financial planning concept which, if you ask me, would have been successful even today”. The idea was to make the family aware of the need for long-term responsible financial behaviour and responsibility, while moderately creating a secured future through savings and a pension fund, and insuring against the risks that can undermine the financial security of the family unit. So, the need for a certain insurance plan, or sum-assured of a certain amount was no longer governed by the greed of a commission-hungry insurance salesmen, but a well-calculated outcome which was shown at the bottom lines of the “family financial planning spreadsheet”.
Selling insurance became a professional and well-planned exercise, and the market was not late to positively respond to the new trend. Big names in the industry such as Zeev-Ravid and Moshe-Weinreb were the students of the first rounds of the courses they gave. This is where it all started.
My modest part in this was during the late eighties, when I was in a partnership with Harold Stuzen. I was an insurance expert in life and health planning. The tools M was creating years before were a nice completion to my professional ambition. I sat with my prospects and made them my customers by using actual “financial planning” tools. The sales process became logical, gradual and led to a clear display of the insurance need of the customer.
At that time, a new tool appeared in our life. The “computer”. M led the process of turning long and complicated work processes into simplified PC desktop tasks which made the company efficient and responsive. Basic management terms were born, “full kit” to deliver the full information requested in any mail, report or request. “J in time” was the new management system that herded all turnaround times into an agreed framework of deadlines. Looking back, I know that this period had a lasting impact on my career, has built the pride and the history book of the people involved, and of M. The philosophy was not concentrating on the products, but on what the products can do for the customers. Reading these lines in the world of today, how can you not be impressed with the “forever living” ideas of their business approach?
“It was not greed that motivated me,” stresses M. “I cared about my financial future and security, but I was more into the joy in the creativity of the new realm that until today is the torch for many of the insurance leaders in the industry. It is important to teach people to plan their financial future, and to care about the management of the different risks in their lives. “I could achieve more” says M, “ I kept away from company politics, from rivalry and intrigue. I did not want to pave my way to the top on the waves of conflict and disputes”.
I am fascinated by the charming personality of M. He is passionate about his professional past, but remains far from falling into the mistake of living in his past. He is realistic and looking forward. On the count of many love affairs ended with marriages and children, he is not sorry for anything. “The twists of life brought me to appreciate and love the lady I am with over the last 27 years.”
Zami, his partner, is a patient lady, loving and caring, completing the ongoing and never-ending project of their social life. Zami has turned hosting into a fine art. You really want to be invited to Z & M’s table, and enjoy the catch of the day from the Mediterranean, with spices and dips prepared at home. This is usually offered with a glass of fine wine of liqueur.
Z&M are involved in multiple circles of friend, from all walks of life and from many countries. Their attitude to friendship implies that it is a high priority in their life. They are busy with their social life all around the clock. They would call, meet, invite, travel, and treat their friends with a great deal of dedication and affection. You can see the care and the continued interest they have in their friends’ lives as if they were their own families.
Recently, when M was informed he had cancer, his attitude was that of a “Type A” person. “OK, what can I say? What can I do? I have to fight and win… is that not so?”
Days later, I have received this photo. see below, It is an illustration of the gap between the love of life and the imminent need to fight the illness. Here and there, you can notice the “cracks” in the well-built wall of confidence which carried him across his life. But he is now geared towards a battle. To win. Now the investments pay off. Years of well-invested relationship with friends are creating the support and love he deserves. Calls, visits, emails – love!!!
His well-planned financial status serves as an ultimate proof of concept. His careful financial planning means he is well-prepared, even for this new challenge.
As for me, I am blessed with the colorful, fulfilling friendship with M & Z. I have and am still learning a lot from this unique friend and mentor. I cannot but hope to have him/them in my life for many years to come. This of course, comes with my sincere wish and hope for his full recovery and future good health.
Thank you, M! It has been great, and I am sure it will continue to be so.