It is rare today to hear of genuine stories of class transcendence, the kind that used to be told by the likes of Horatio Alger and that informed many people’s conception of what it meant to live in first-world countries like America. For multiple reasons, the class mobility of the world’s leading countries has stagnated, in recent decades, to the point where, it is safe to say, many people in countries such as the United States no longer even really think about the possibility of climbing above the circumstances they were born into.
It is, therefore, somewhat surprising to read about real-life Horatio Alger stories taking place in far-off second and even third-world countries, places that have historically been mired in poverty and beset with staggering inequality and an ossified class structure. But the story of Bradesco CEO Luiz Carlos Trabuco is one example of a real-life tale involving completely transcendence of class.
Trabuco was born in the town of Marilia, Sao Paulo, a small town in Central Brazil, in 1951. In those days, the country was just beginning to develop in earnest, but it was still bogged down with major structural challenges and widespread poverty.
By the time Trabuco graduated from high school in 1969, the country’s economy was beginning to pick up steam. Trabuco had aspirations to attend college but did not have any money with which to do so. He resolved to go get a job anywhere he could find one. A sign had been posted indicating the need for help at one of the town’s small banks. Trabuco went in for an interview and was hired at Bradesco.
He quickly proved to be an able employee, rapidly learning his job and demonstrating strong leadership ability. He slowly began climbing the ranks, first as a shift manager, then as a branch manager. Throughout the decade of the 1970s, Trabuco was able to realize his dream of attending college, albeit through night school. He was able to attain a bachelor’s degree in business administration as well as a master’s degree in social psychology. By the end of the 1970s, Trabuco was a regional manager with the now rapidly expanding Bradesco. Through the early 80s, he was quickly becoming one of the most well-credentialed employees of the bank.
In 1984, Trabuco was given his first crack at a real executive role. Put in charge of the bank’s marketing and public relations department, Trabuco immediately began modernizing the way in which the bank approached its public image. By the time he left that department, Bradesco had one of the strongest and most recognizable brands of any company in Sao Paulo state.
In 1992, he was again tapped to head up an entire division. This time, Trabuco was placed in charge of the bank’s struggling financial planning unit. At the time he took over, the division accounted for just a few percent of the firm’s total revenues and had not ever turned a profit. According to brasil247.com, Trabuco immediately began radically overhauling the way in which the bank executed its business. Taking a chapter out of the North American investment banking playbook, Trabuco created a tiered banking system where the highest-value clients were lavished with personalized service, luxurious facilities and high-value comps.
The effort to directly go after the high-net-worth-client market proved to be a huge success. Within just a few years, Trabuco’s plan had generated billions of dollars in new deposits, allowing the bank to sharply increase the number of loans it was able to underwrite. This was a crucial part of the bank’s meteoric rise throughout the 90s.
Eventually, Trabuco was rewarded by being appointed CEO of Grupo Bradesco, completing his journey from the bank’s lowest position to its highest.
Learn more about Luiz Carlos Trabuco: https://g1.globo.com/economia/negocios/noticia/sucessao-no-conselho-do-bradesco-foi-um-ato-planejado-diz-trabuco.ghtml