How Luiz Carlos Trabuco’s Idiosyncratic Vision Has Changed Brazilian Banking Forever

In Brazil, the largest companies in the country can be found in the financial sector. And the largest company in the financial sector, by at least some measures, is Grupo Bradesco. This is all the more remarkable when considering the fact that the firm, as late as the early 1970s, was just a small, local bank, with no more than a couple of branches.

Then, the bank began its dramatic rise to the top of the Brazilian financial world. This rise from sleepy, small town bank to the preeminent financial institution in the country occurred in tandem with one of the bank’s star employees. In fact, Luiz Carlos Trabuco had as much to do with the firm’s astounding success as anyone else.

And old-time success story

In the old days, it used to be that the vast majority of people who ended up as the captains of industry, at least those not born directly into dynastic wealth, did so by working their way from the lowest rungs of the industrial ladder all the way to the top. The stories of John D. Rockefeller, Cornelius Vanderbilt, Andrew Carnegie and just about every other of the great Victorian industrialists all followed this narrative closely. However, by the end of the 20th century, global capitalism had largely lost its ability to produce men of great wealth from the common stock of the underclass. The system had morphed into a nearly permanent and static class structure, where upward mobility was more fairy tale than reality.

However, a young Brazilian bank teller in 1969 would provide a heartening counter example to this trend towards an ossified caste system. Luiz Carlos Trabuco got his first job as a bank teller at the age of just 18. He quickly proved adept at the many tasks his job required, earning the attention and favor of his bosses. Over the next ten years, he began moving up through the ranks of Bradesco, just as the company itself began moving up amid the competition in the Brazilian financial space. By 1984, Trabuco had put himself through graduate school and held a master’s degree in social psychology. He would put it to good use.

Luiz Carlos Trabuco was handed the reins of the firm’s marketing department in 1984. But he didn’t see things the same way as his old guard superiors. A product of both the academy and the real-world of hyper-competitive Brazilian finance, Trabuco understood better than any of his bosses that the company was offering a fundamentally commodity product. While Trabuco thought that Bradesco could and should offer the absolute best product possible to its customers, he was realistic about the prospects the firm had of meaningfully establishing a strong competitive edge based on its banking products alone. The edge, Trabuco argued, would need to come from the bank’s ability to offer a superior service, a customer experience that would become the focal point of the brand and the place the firm would occupy in the public mind.

He set out implementing his new strategy. By 1992, it was clearly working. Bradesco itself was growing at a phenomenal rate, and most of the growth was organic. By the mid-1990s, Trabuco, now heading the financial planning division, had grown that unit into a highly profitable business, accounting for more than 25 percent of the firm’s total profits. In 2003, he was tapped to lead Bradesco’s insurance division.

Over the 2000s, he again proved himself and his vision, making Bradesco Seguros into the largest underwriter of retail insurance policies in the country. All of this phenomenal success eventually put Trabuco in line to be named successor to the departing CEO, Mario Cypriano.

Although Trabuco has faced some touch challenges as CEO and president, his vision of creating a banking services giant focused on delivering a superior customer experience has proven to be the best thing that’s ever happened to Bradesco.