Luiz Carlos Trabuco, the current CEO of Bradesco, is a sort of real-life Horatio Alger story. Even in Brazil, his story is evidence that the American Dream, dead as it may be in the rapidly disintegrating multi-ethnic slum that is the United States, is still alive and well, even thriving, in other parts of the world.

It is ironic that countries like Brazil, which was once considered to be a backwards malarial jungle nation inhabited by savages and layabouts, is now overtaking the unipolar superpower on almost all measures. But it is a supreme irony that, even as the American Dream itself appears to be as dead as a South Chicago gunshot victim, the Brazilian Dream is on the ascendant.

Luiz Carlos Trabuco’s story is yet another affirmation that some of the most promising and opportunity-rich places on the planet are no longer located in the sclerotic and rapidly fading empty-vessel nations of the West, but in the dynamic and deregulated economic engines of the Global South.

Upon graduating from high school in 1969, the 18-year-old Trabuco struck out looking for work. He was willing to take just about any job that he came upon. So when he saw a help-wanted sign hanging in the branch of a local bank, he went in and applied. He was surprised to see how quickly he was hired. Trabuco had just landed his first job at a bank called Bradesco, then a local concern with a few branches around the small town of Marilia, Sao Paulo.


Over the course of his first year of employment, Trabuco Bradesco proved to be a capable manager and a quick learner. He caught the attention of his supervisors through his strong work ethic and quick wit and was able to get a series of promotions. First, he became a shift manager. Later, he was moved up to branch manager.

Throughout the 1970s, Trabuco was able to pursue his dream of getting an advanced college degree. Even as he worked up to 60 hours each week, the young manager was able to get a bachelor’s degree in business administration as well as a master’s degree in social psychology.

By 1984, he was one of the most experienced and well-credentialed employees in the company’s ranks. It was that year that he was given his first real executive role. He was appointed to head up the company’s marketing and PR department.

There, Trabuco made a number of sweeping changes, establishing strong relationships with local media personalities and running sleek advertisement campaigns that captured the public’s heart and mind according to By the time he left the PR unit, Bradesco had one of the most well-known and respected names in the state of Sao Paulo.

In 1992, he was again tapped to head up a struggling unit. This time, Trabuco was appointed head of the bank’s financial planning division, a business that had never turned a profit and only accounted for a tiny fraction of the total sales of the bank. Trabuco immediately moved to radically overhaul the way the unit approached its business. He explicitly began targeting high-value clients, giving the richest clients of the bank luxurious facilities, personal bankers and luxuriant comps.

The strategy worked. Within just a couple years, Bradesco had nearly cornered the market on high-net-worth clients. This had the effect of boosting its money on deposit by billions of dollars. This increased the ability of the bank to make new loans by a large factor, contributing materially to the firm’s dramatic expansion throughout the 1990s and 2000s. In 2009, Trabuco reached the pinnacle of the Bradesco hierarchy, when he was appointed to be the CEO.

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