There is no more compelling story in modern capitalism than that of the self-made man. People are naturally captivated by the rags-to-riches story of an everyman who becomes one of the ruling elite. This is especially deeply ingrained in the American mythos, where it is deemed a God-given truth that all Americans have an equal chance to rise to the top, doing whatever they set their mind to. But the so-called American Dream is just as relevant in developing countries, where the dream to rise above the station of one’s birth may be even more vivid and inspiring.
In the case of Brazil, one man personifies the Horatio Alger story better than perhaps anyone else. Luiz Carlos Trabuco Cappi was born into a lower middle-class household in the then small town of Marilia, located in Central Sao Paolo. When he was 18, he got his first job as a bank teller at what was, at that time, a small local bank with only a couple of branches. Both bank teller and the company he worked at, Bradesco, would rise in tandem, eventually becoming the top employee at the largest banking concern in the country.
Trabuco Cappi completed his first year as a bank teller, being quickly noticed by his boss as an eager and talented employee who took to learning quickly. That was 1959. Over the next three decades, Trabuco Cappi would rise through the ranks, first becoming bank manager, then district manager and finally onto regional manager of what had, by that time, become a major regional player in the financial industry, with hundreds of branches across the state of Sao Paolo and beyond.
By 1992, Trabuco Cappi’s skill at administrating large departments and successfully leading teams was getting noticed at the highest levels of the corporation. That year, he was given his first true executive role. According to wikipedia.org, he was appointed president of the company’s financial planning division and given a broad mandate to increase revenues, taking whatever steps he thought necessary to achieve that end. He was essentially given full autonomy over the department.
The executive suite’s trust in Luiz Carlos Trabuco Cappi proved to be extremely well placed. Over the next ten years, he grew the unit into one of Grupo Bradesco’s most high-earning divisions. By 2003, the financial planning arm, which had previously only accounted for a few percent of the firm’s total revenues, was making more than 25 percent of Bradesco’s total profits. This was a huge success and directly led to Trabuco Cappi’s promotion to president of Bradesco Seguros, the company’s insurance underwriting unit.
While heading that division, Trabuco Cappi once again worked his magic. By now, the 62 year old’s ability to successfully manage complex business lines was beyond questioning. At the helm of Bradesco Seguros, he proved, once again, to be an extremely capable leader. By the time he left the unit, in 2009, he had grown it into a major profit center, accounting for more than 30 percent of the group’s total earnings. Then, in that same year, Mario Cypriano, CEO of Grupo Bradesco, announced his departure.
There was no real viable competitor to Trabuco Cappi for the sought-after spot. His decades-long track record of fomenting incredible growth and turning to gold whatever he touched cemented his chances of being promoted to the group’s top spot. In 2009, it was announced that Trabuco Cappi would acced to the high thrown of the Bradesco group. But his reign at the top would prove to be the biggest challenge of his career.
Trabuco Cappi inherited a corporation that existed in a totally different macroeconomic reality than the one in which his predecessors had operated. The Brazilian economy was in bad shape, still reeling from the global financial crisis. Over the next six years, Trabuco Cappi struggled amid stagnant performance.
But in 2015, he completed the acquisition of HSBC Brazil for $5.2 billion, putting Bradesco back on top. Whether or not he can cement Bradesco’s supremacy, only time will tell.