Luiz Carlos Trabuco Cappi’s Rise To Top Of Bradesco Illustrates Institutional Pressures

Rarely do we see an employee at the lowest rungs of a company rise all the way to the executive suite. Although this used to be the standard conception of how people with talent and ambition rose to the top, in today’s globalized and elitist corporate environment, such ascensions are almost as improbably as finding a Unicorn in a hay field.

However, in the case of Luiz Carlos Trabuco Cappi, that is exactly how he was able to rise from the position of bank teller to the head of a company with more than 10,000 employees. At first, this remarkable story may appear to put the lie to the idea that things are continually getting worse for the middle class under globalism. It may appear to be an allegory of how a man can rise from relative poverty, transcending class to become one of the most powerful businessmen in a country.

But a great deal of caution is warranted in espousing such views. Upon closer inspection, it turns out that Luiz Carlos Trabuco Cappi, rather than transcending class and proving that a commoner can rise all the way to the most exalted realms, shows only that Trabuco Cappi himself was particularly adept at internalizing globalist maxims, so much so that he profoundly changed the bank along the way.

From starry-eyed youth to member of the global elite

Trabuco Cappi got his first job at a then-small bank called Bradesco in 1969. He was just 18 years old at the time and had only a high school diploma. But through hard work and the ability to quickly learn, he proved himself to his superiors, being appointed to his first management role within a year of signing on with the company.

Over the next decade, he would continue to be promoted through the ranks. During this time, he was also able to get a degree in business and a master’s degree in social psychology from one of Brazil’s most prestigious universities. This, combined with his increasing experience, led Trabuco Cappi to be promoted to his first executive role in 1984.

In that year, he was appointed to the head of the firm’s director of marketing department. Using his knowledge of psychology and the ways in which North American banks used branding and marketing, he radically overhauled the way the bank approached marketing and public relations, leading to a major enhancement in the bank’s public image. Throughout this time, Trabuco Cappi was largely credited with driving the large increase in business that the bank was experiencing. After this success, he was tapped to head up the firm’s flagging financial planning division.

In 1992, Trabuco Cappi accepted the promotion to head of the firm’s financial planning division. This was the first time that the now highly experienced executive began shifting the way the bank operated to a much more modern, globalist approach. By now, the inveterate banker was steeped in the ideology of globalization and financialization. He quickly dispensed with the bank’s old practice of treating all of its customers equally. Trabuco Cappi knew that a high-net-worth client could be worth thousands of times to the bank what a lowly working-class depositor would be.

He immediately moved to create a tiered banking system, with the most valuable clients receiving lavish rewards, on-call personal bankers and separate, luxury facilities. Some say that it was during this period that rates for basic banking services began markedly increasing and the level of service declined. Nevertheless, the strategy proved effective, Trabuco Cappi was able to attract many of the richest individuals in Brazil and Latin America to the bank, increasing revenues by millions of dollars in the process. But many were not happy with the focus on delivering all of the benefits to the wealthiest clients, further exacerbating the often shocking disparities between rich and poor in the highly unequal country.

Even so, from a business perspective, Trabuco Cappi’s reign has been an unqualified success.

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