The largest bank in Brazil, Bradesco, has recently announced that major changes are coming to its lineup of top leadership. Longtime CEO Luiz Carlos Trabuco Cappi will be stepping down in order to take over the spot of chairman of the board. That position is being vacated by Lazaro Brandao, one of the bank’s most influential leaders and one of the longest-serving chairpersons in the world. At 92 years old, Brandao has finally decided that it is time to take his long-postponed retirement. But even as the nonagenarian veteran of Brazilian finance wraps up his career, many of the bank’s most influential stakeholders have expressed concern about his departure.
A different banker from a different era
Lazaro Brandao has seen profound changes in the world of finance and in the country of Brazil. When the 92-year-old banker first came to work for Bradesco, in 1943, the company was just a one-branch thrift institution in the small town of Marilia, Sao Paulo. At that time, Brazil itself was still largely a third-world country, with severe systemic problems and a huge underclass living in abject poverty. But Brandao, Bradesco and the country as a whole all grew up together in much the same way.
By the 1990s, Brandao was serving as both chairman and CEO of the firm. Bradesco itself was in the middle of the largest period of growth in its history and the country of Brazil was rapidly developing from a forgotten swampland into a highly sought-after destination for the global jet-setting elite. The country had also begun to form a solid industrial base, with companies like Embraer leading the way.
This was a great environment in which to a banker. In 1981, the first year that Brandao became president of the bank, the Brazilian banking market was wide open. With no major players controlling the entire industry, as had long been the case in places like North America, the first enterprising, competitive bank to come along would be able to become the dominant force in the country’s finance markets.
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Brandao seized on that opportunity with fervor. Throughout the 1980s, he grew the firm considerable. During the 1990s, Brandao focused on high-growth strategies and aggressively grew the firm through both organic growth and strategic acquisitions.
But it wasn’t just Brandao who was responsible for the bank’s tremendous success throughout this period. Bradesco’s current CEO, Luiz Carlos Trabuco Cappi was just as instrumental in the bank’s rise to dominance.
In 1992, Trabuco Cappi, a longtime executive for the firm at that time, was appointed to head up the company’s flagging financial planning unit. Upon taking over, Trabuco Cappi immediately started making innovative reforms. He began explicitly going after the high-net-worth-client market through using tactics that had never before been pursued by the bank’s leadership.
Trabuco Cappi created a tiered banking system that gave the bank’s highest-value clients personalized services, including separate, luxury facilities and 24/7 personal bankers. The strategy proved to be a huge success. Within a couple years, the bank had nearly cornered the Brazilian high-net-worth market, attracting tens of million in new deposits. This was a crucial step in the ability of the bank to grow at such a fantastic rate throughout the decade of the 90s. Trabuco Cappi was largely credited with the increase in assets, allowing the bank to radically increase the dollar amount of loans that it was able to originate.
Trabuco Cappi was also responsible for leading the bank’s insurance division to become the single largest underwriter of insurance policies in the country. These efforts have gained him the respect and admiration of the board and the bank’s shareholders.