The Brazilian banking industry has become one of the most cutthroat industries in the world. With declining macroeconomic trends broadly affecting the country, the organic growth that top banks experienced in the 2000s has largely come to an end. Many of the top banks in the country have found it increasingly difficult to compete and have been gobbled up by their larger and more financially secure competitors. Today, the market is dominated by two large players: Itau Unibanco and Grupo Bradesco. Both of these banks have gotten to where they are the aggressive growth strategies and through providing the best service in the industry. But one bank, Bradesco, has come out on top.

Led by Luiz Carlos Trabuco, widely acknowledged to be one of the most experienced and knowledgeable bankers in the country, the bank has made an incredible trip from a tiny local bank in a small town to the largest financial conglomerate in the country, by various measures. But even though Trabuco has only been at the helm of the company since 2009, many regard him to be a near personification of the firm. Since 1969, Trabuco has been one of the driving forces behind Bradesco’s rise to the top. And now, he has a chance to cement Bradesco’s future as Brazil’s quasi national bank.

A company man in full

Luiz Carlos Trabuco is what many may call a company man. Although that term sometimes has negative connotations, in Bradesco’s case, they could not possibly have been more blessed in the choice of a single employee. After beginning to work for the firm as a bank teller, in 1969, Trabuco quickly proved himself to be an able and ambitious employee. He learned quickly, worked hard and administered effectively. By the mid-70s, he was heading his own branch. And by the early 1980s, he was the regional manager for a part of the bank’s operations in the state of Sao Paolo.

In 1984, Trabuco was extended his first real executive role. He was appointed head of the firm’s lackluster marketing division, which had been struggling to modernize and create good content to promote the brand throughout the country. By this time, Trabuco had amassed various college degrees, including a master’s degree in social psychology. He also had over 15 years of real-world experience in the banking industry. This helped him to form a different view than his predecessors and a clear strategic vision of where he thought the firm should go.

As head of the firm’s marketing division, he began to create a new ethos and a strong image for the brand. This didn’t just serve to inform the public mind of what Bradesco was all about. It also mythologized the firm in the minds of the company’s own employees, instilling a sense of purpose and identity that had theretofore been lacking. Overall, Trabuco’s tenure as head of the marketing department was a success. In 1992, he was appointed head of the firm’s financial planning division.

It was here that Trabuco was able to really begin to come into his own as an executive. The financial planning division had been struggling to take off since its inception in the mid-80s and Trabuco saw the opportunity to take the unit in a totally new direction.

Trabuco, more than any of his predecessors, understood that banking is, at its core, a commodity business. The only way that one bank can really differentiate its products meaningfully from its competition is through pricing. But Trabuco saw another level on which Bradesco could compete. He thought that Bradesco’s prior philosophy of treating all customers equally was suboptimal. Trabuco envisioned a system where high-net-worth clients would be doted on and treated lavishly, as if they were high rollers at a casino.

This strategy of providing tiered service led to the creation of Bradesco Prime. Through these efforts, Trabuco changed the way that Bradesco approaches its business.

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