The Departure Of Lazaro Brandao From Bradesco Leaves Questions About What Follows

Lazaro Brandao, one of the most revered bankers in Brazil, has recently announced that he will finally step down as chairman of the board of Grupo Bradesco, effective in a few weeks. His departure will leave more than a mere positional vacancy. Brandao has long been considered the soul of Bradesco, having been with the firm since the year it was founded. The 91 year old banker has overseen the period of dramatic growth that saw Bradesco go from a one-branch, small-town bank to the most important financial institution in South America. Some worry that his shoes are simply to big to be adequately filled.

However, Brandao has stated that he is not considering an encore. At this point, says the nonagenarian financier, he wants to spend more time with his family and enjoy more free time. Brandao has also stated that he wants to allow younger executive talent the chance to percolate up through the ranks, much the same way that he did.

Man and bank rise as one

Lazaro Brandao first came to work at Bradesco in 1943, the first full year that the bank was in operation. At the age of just 16, he had little experience but much ambition. Over the course of the next 75 years, he would prove to be one of the most able employees the bank would ever see, rising all the way through the corporate hierarchy to CEO. In 1981, the year he was promoted to the top slot at the bank, Bradesco was still just a small, regional concern. But over the next 36 years, Brandao helped ensure that the small town bank would grow into one of the most powerful and revered financial institutions that the country had ever seen.

By 1981, Brandao had been named CEO, a position that he would hold until 1999, making him the longest-serving CEO in the company’s history. Between 1990 and 1999, Brandao also became the only person to simultaneously hold the position of CEO and chairman of the board.

The period over which Brandao presided was, by far, the most lucrative and successful for the bank. Between 1990 and 2009, the firm’s stock price exploded by more than 300 times, making the bank one of the fastest growing companies in the history of Brazilian business.

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It is for these reasons that so many shareholders and board members have expressed serious reservations about the retirement of Brandao, who is widely regarded to be a sort of incarnation of the bank’s spirit and a major component of its long-term success.

However, Brandao is the first to reassure these investors that Luiz Carlos Trabuco is a man who can take the reins and continue guiding the bank forward. Trabuco, himself, is a long-tenured employee of the bank, having first started working there in 1969, at the age of just 18. He has been instrumental in the bank’s success, being appointed to the head of various departments and thoroughly modernizing them, taking them to high levels of profitability.

Despite a somewhat tumultuous first six years as CEO, Trabuco completed the largest acquisition in the history of Brazilian business when he was able to purchase HSBC Brazil for $5.2 billion in cash. The deal instantly sent Bradesco rocketing back to the number-one position across many measures in the banking industry. This realignment gave Bradesco a huge competitive advantage over its chief rival, Itau Unibanco. Today, thanks to Trabuco’s leadership, Bradesco continues chipping away at its competitors’ market share, solidifying its position as a bank that may someday be able to create a soft monopoly on the entire Brazilian banking industry.

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