After Meteoric Rise, Luiz Carlos Trabuco Has Met A Worthy Challenge

Few people in the global business world actually can claim to have gotten where they are through the sheer power of their own talent, grit and hard work. But there are still a few Horatio Alger stories that can inspire future generations to dream big and stay dedicated. One of those is the story of Luiz Carlos Trabuco, CEO of Bradesco, Brazil’s leading financial institution.

Trabuco’s story starts in a small town called Marilia, in Central Sao Paolo. In 1969, at the age of 18, he got his first job. Working as a bank teller for a then small firm called Bradesco, with just a few branches in the town of Marilia, Trabuco quickly proved that he was an able administrator and a fast learner. He inspired confidence in his bosses and was quickly put on the fast track towards management positions. Over the following ten years, Trabuco rose steadily through the ranks, putting himself through college in the process. By the early 1980s, he held a master’s degree in social psychology and was a regional manager for the ever-expanding Bradesco.

In 1984, Trabuco was appointed president of the group’s marketing department. Having a degree that specialized in the application of psychological principles to business, Trabuco began immediately laying down a comprehensive framework for the firm’s marketing strategy. This new direction would define the course that the firm would take over the next 30 years, leading to some of the most fantastic growth of any company in Brazilian history.

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Luiz Carlos Trabuco realized through his studies and his real world experience, that Bradesco was a financial services company in a largely commodity business. Trabuco thought that the firm was unlikely to gain a significant competitive edge based on offering distinct and superior products alone, although that would also play a part in the overall strategy. Instead, he focused on creating a world-class customer experience through superior service. This strategy proved enormously successful. In 1992, Trabuco was appointed president of the newly formed financial planning division.

While heading Bradesco’s financial planning unit, Trabuco began putting his theories about creating a valuable brand through differentiating service. Prior to that time, the corporate strategy had been to extend exactly the same level of service to all clients. Trabuco was aware that the highly successful North American financial services model didn’t operate like that. He began to create service tiers, with high-net-worth clients receiving luxuriant treatment.

The creation of Bradesco Prime, the firm’s high-net-worth financial services product, was a major success. The firm quickly began attracting Brazil’s most successful clients to do business with their firm. By the time Trabuco was promoted in 2003, he had grown the financial planning unit from an insignificant business line into a division responsible for more than 25 percent of the firm’s total profits. He was then promoted to the head of the company’s large insurance underwriting arm.

While presiding over Bradesco Seguros, Trabuco was again able to massively grow the operation. During his tenure, the division grew by more than two times, becoming the single largest underwriter of retail insurance policies in the country. By the late 2000s, Trabuco had grown the insurance operation into one accounting for more than 30 percent of the firm’s total profits. By this time, his track record was legendary. When outgoing CEO Mario Cypriano stepped down in 2009, Trabuco was the obvious choice for replacement.

In 2009, he was named CEO of Grupo Bradesco. But his tenure as CEO proved more difficult than the other roles he had so skillfully navigated in the firm. He inherited a company that was facing unfavorable macroeconomic conditions as well as suffering from a serious lack of prospects for further acquisition.

In 2015, Trabuco worked his magic again. He completed the acquisition of HSBC Brazil, instantly turning Bradesco into the largest financial services firm in the country by many different measures. Trabuco remains as CEO, giving Bradesco a powerful shot at future success.