Luiz Carlos Trabuco was born into lowly circumstances in 1951. He grew up in the small town of Marilia, Sao Paulo and attended school there. He developed into an excellent student, getting nearly all As throughout his time in high school.
Trabuco had aspirations to attend college, but neither he nor his family had sufficient money to send him to a decent college. After he graduated, he was therefore forced to jump into the labor market, looking for any job that he could find. But Trabuco did not have any interest in performing manual labor or other menial tasks. He had always harbored a strong interest in numbers and finance. It struck his fancy when he saw a help-wanted sign being displayed in the window of one of the local banks.
The branch belonged to a bank that, at that time, was confined to the city of Marilia. Known as Bradesco, it had expanded from just one branch over the previous 20 years into one of the city’s more prominent lending institutions. Trabuco walked in and was granted an interview. He was surprised by how quickly he was called back. He had been hired.
Over his first year at the bank, Trabuco learned the tasks demanded of him with an uncommon speed. His employers took notice of his abilities, and, soon, he was given a promotion. By the end of his first year, he had been given the job of branch manager for the outlet where he worked.
Over the course of the 1970s, Trabuco was able to secure a stream of steady promotions. As he worked his way up the ranks of the firm, sometimes putting in as much as 60 hours per week, he was also, for the first time, able to earn enough money to begin taking night classes. Throughout the 70s, he would attend hundreds of credit-hours worth of classes, eventually getting a degree in business administration as well as a master’s degree in social psychology.
Trabuco was quickly becoming one of the most well-credentialed employees of the bank. In 1984, he was given his first true executive role. He was appointed to head up the bank’s marketing and PR department, a position that he jumped right into with characteristic vigor. He quickly began making changes to how the bank approached the promotion of its brand, forging strong personal relationships with local media personalities and involving the bank in highly visible charity activities throughout the markets where it operated.
By the early 1990s, Bradesco had one of the most well-recognized brands in the state of Sao Paulo. Trabuco’s success at overhauling the marketing unit was noticed by the bank’s top brass, and in 1992, he was again promoted. This time, he would be heading up the bank’s struggling financial planning division.
The unit had been losing money ever since its inception and was at imminent risk of having the plug pulled. Trabuco immediately spotted numerous ways in which the unit’s approach to its business could be improved. One of the most far-reaching moves that Trabuco made while heading the division was to focus intensely on acquiring wealthy clients. Until that time, the bank had followed a policy of offering essentially the same services to all clients. Trabuco scrapped that, opting instead to lavish the bank’s most valuable clients with luxurious facilities, personal banking and luxurious rewards.
The strategy worked. Within just a few years, Bradesco had nearly cornered the country’s high-net-worth-client market. This filled the banks coffers with billions of new money being deposited. This eventually led to Trabuco’s appointment to CEO. In 40 years, he had gone from broke student to one of the wealthiest and most powerful people in Latin America.
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