Many people cite the career of people like Luiz Carlos Trabuco Cappi as hard evidence that it is still possible to rise to the top with hard work and determination. Yet, upon closer inspection, many of these real life Horatio Alger stories turn out to be more complex. While it is certainly true that Trabuco Cappi has an admirable work ethic and major reserves of natural talent, it is equally clear that he got where he was not only by conforming to institutional imperatives but apparently through implementing many of the tenets of globalism and financialization – the very things that make it difficult for people like him to rise from the bottom to the top in the way he did.
From novice to old hand
Luiz Carlos Trabuco Cappi got his first job when he was 18. It was with a bank that was, at that time, nothing more than a local concern with a few branches around the city of Marilia, in Sao Paulo state. Trabuco Cappi was smart, motivated and eager to learn his trade. He quickly impressed his superiors with his ability to quickly learn skills and manage difficult situations. Within his first year, he had already landed his first management role as a shift manager.
Over the next decade, Trabuco Cappi began rising through the ranks, just as Bradesco itself began a period of major expansion. Throughout the 70s, Trabuco Cappi was able to attend college, eventually earning a master’s degree in social psychology as well as a business degree from the Univerity of Sao Paulo. This combination of extensive, real-world experience and a rigorous academic knowledge led him to become an attractive candidate for promotion to an executive role. In 1984, he got a shot at his first real leadership role over an entire department.
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Appointed to head of the firm’s marketing division, Trabuco Cappi immediately began making sweeping changes to the way that unit did business. Emulating things that had worked for larger banks in North America, Trabuco began forging strong relationships with local media figures, taking them out to eat at expensive restaurants and even taking them on vacations. He also began involving the company in many local charities and volunteer opportunities. These efforts at increasing the firm’s goodwill and public image paid off handsomely. By the late 80s, revenues at Bradesco were way up. In 1992, Trabuco was appointed head of the company’s financial planning division.
It was here that the first hint that Trabuco would not be following the old, egalitarian vision of the founders became readily apparent. The unit had not been doing very well, accounting for only 3 percent of the firm’s total revenues and not turning a profit at all. Trabuco immediately began making major changes to the business model. The first thing he began overhauling was how the company approached its highest value customers.
Trabuco Cappi was the first Brazilian banker to realize that, by adopting a personal banking and wealth management model similar to how a casino stratifies its customers, that he could potentially attract vastly more wealthy individuals to the bank’s services. He began offering the service known as Bradesco Prime, an exclusive personal banking and wealth management service only available to the wealthiest people in the country. Trabuco Cappi ensured that his best customers had all the perks they could possibly want, including high-end comps, like first-class airline tickets, separate, luxurious banking facilities and 24/7 personal bankers.
The plan worked Bradesco soon began scooping up the majority of the nation’s high-net-worth banking clients. The division’s revenues soared and so did its profits. But did all this, however successful, come at the expense of the bank’s old order?
Many say that Trabuco Cappi was able to generate these successes only by adopting globalist norms and profoundly changing the culture of the company. Still, it is inarguable that the programs he implemented were a crucial factor in Bradesco’s rise to prominence.
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