Brazilian banking giant Bradesco has been like watching an exciting sporting event, where the underdog makes a stunning, come-from-behind victory to clinch the title. But in the case of Brazilian banking, the game is still far from over. The contest, however, has been so entrancing to watch that almost anyone can appreciate the incredible vision, appetite for risk and administrative talent of the string of Bradesco leadership that has been able to grow the firm from a tiny, local bank into a global financial powerhouse, inside of just a few, short decades.
The Cyrpiano Era Was A Tough Act To Follow
Throughout the decade of the 2000s, Bradesco was led by one of its greatest CEOs. This era marked a period of growth so stunning that it’s possible that it has never before been matched in the annals of Brazilian industry and may never again be topped. Between 1999 and 2009, Bradesco increased its assets by over 30 times and its stock price exploded to over 100 times its previous value. This growth was the product of both incredible organic growth and a voracious policy of acquiring anything and everything that the bank could get its claws into.
By 2009, Cypriano was ready to retire. Luiz Carlos Trabuco, a long-time executive for the firm, was the obvious favored replacement. Trabuco had been with the firm in one capacity or another since 1969, when he was hired on by Bradesco as a bank teller, his first job ever. But Trabuco took the reins at a time of great upheaval in the Brazilian economy. Still reeling from the global financial meltdown of 2008, spurred on by the unrestrained mania of the U.S. housing market, the Brazilian economy was in tatters, and the banking industry, in particular, had quickly become a negative-sum game of scavengers. These would be difficult times for Trabuco to effect his stated goal of growing the company each quarter.
Making things even worse, shortly after Trabuco slid into the captain’s seat, rival banks Banco Itau and Unibanco merged, forming the largest banking conglomerate in Brazil. This move instantly shot Bradesco back to a distant second-place in the ranks of banking institutions, exposing the firm to the depredations of its now far better-heeled competitor. Trabuco had inherited an almost impossible situation in which to achieve anything resembling organic growth.
By this time, the Brazilian banking industry was so hyper-concentrated that any prospects of making strategic acquisitions that could materially affect the firm’s standing seemed remote. Over the first six years of Trabuco’s reign, Bradesco slowly slipped backwards from its position of one-time market dominance, losing customers and market capitalization every quarter. By 2014, things were looking dire for both the firm and Trabuco, with the market value of the company sitting at less than half of what it was when he took over the helm in 2009. There was talk, in hushed voices, among the Brailian business press of a possible takeover of Bradesco and even of an impending announcement of bankruptcy.
Then, in 2015, Trabuco saw a golden opportunity. Rumors began flying that HSBC, the second largest bank on the planet, was looking to dump all of its Brazilian assets. Trabuco moved with aplomb, drafting a deal to acquire HSBC Brazil for $5.2 billion in cash. Incredibly, Trabuco was able to pull the deal off, marking the single largest transaction in Brazilian history.
Today, Bradesco’s stock is trading at all-time highs and the bank is positioned to be highly competitive into the long term. Trabuco has managed to grow the retail banking business organically. Bradesco will be a bank to watch over the next five to ten years.