Luiz Carlos Trabuco Highly Effective Leader, But At What Cost?

Jan 6, 2018 |

Luiz Carlos Trabuco is the head of Bradesco, one of the largest banks in Brazil. He is one of a generation of young Brazilians who took life by the horns and helped turn their country from a decisively primitive relic of Portuguese imperialism into a modern, thriving economy.

For these people who came of age between the end of World War II and roughly 1980, the world was theirs to conquer. So vast were the opportunities for development in the resource-rich Brazil, the largest country by both population and land mass in South America, that all it took were a disciplined and hardworking generation to come along and put the pieces together.

Unlike the decadent and, some would say, degenerate hippy generation of the same era in the United States, referred to as the Baby Boomers, the Brazilians of the Baby Boom era tended to be pragmatic, hardworking and prone to dressing sharply. Trabuco is certainly a typical example of members of this generation. The 67-year-old CEO has always maintained a notably low profile. Although he could afford 100 Rolls Royces, he has eschewed the lifestyle of a garish sheikh or clown-car pimp and has instead opted to drive a late-model Ford and live in an ordinary home.


But this understated approach may easily conceal the wolf breathing just below the sheepskin. Trabuco has been noted for his extremely strong work ethic, sometimes working up to 12 hours per day for weeks on end. But he is also said to possess a certain ruthless streak, at least when it comes to rewarding performance and punishing sloth. A typical Baby Boomer hippie may just as well find working under the likes of Trabuco to be as if chained to a lake of fire. But for the serious and goal-oriented, working for Trabuco has been described as being like a soldier in a well-oiled war machine, at once terrifying, exhilarating and addicting according to

Trabuco’s take-no-prisoners attitude has, at times, brought him pointed criticism. He has unapologetically pursued a course that seems likely to, at some point, find Bradesco as a monopolistic force within the Brazilian retail banking sector. But he has also shown a compassionate side, setting up vast charity drives at Christmas for disadvantaged youth throughout the state of Sao Paulo and encouraging Bradesco employees to volunteer at soup kitchens and for food drives, among other good works.

But, perhaps, the most serious complaint against Trabuco’s management style has been that he was granted opportunities as a young man that the decisions he himself made as an executive have made far less likely to recur. For example, Trabuco was able to come to Bradesco with nothing more than a high school diploma and immediately jump into the firm, working his way up through management. But under Bradesco’s modern hiring practices, a repeat of such a career track would be unlikely.

Trabuco has also done much to stratify the kinds of services that are given to clients based on their value to the company. In practice, this means that the lowest-tier clients are provided with services that are far inferior to the lavish amenities and personal attendance gifted to the highest-value clients, who are invariably also the richest.

Still, Trabuco can hardly be blamed for taking all of these steps. Today, Bradesco is the most modernized and innovative bank in the country. It is increasingly positioned to someday become the sole dominant player in an industry that will be worth tens of billions of dollars per year. Through strong leadership, Trabuco has proven that the costs of his decisions are well worth paying.

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Posted in: Business Leader, CEO

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