The Brazilian diaspora comes home.

Lourenço Miranda got repatriated soon after his wife dropped a bomb-shell: she was expecting triplets (two girls and a boy as it turned out); Renata Coutinho and Karina Manasseh came back in part because they wanted to get more hands on in Brazil, as did Alexandre Aoude who had also cannily betted that markets were on the cusp of some pretty good times. Fernando Gentil wanted to spend more time with clients and less in dusty credit approval meetings. Rodrigo Rocha got repatriated by his firm for a promotion.

The stories of Brazilians in finance moving back home after stints in the States and Europe are at heart diverse and individual. The ingredient that’s enabling them to come back in droves is simple: São Paulo is catching up with New York and London in terms of packages and offers professional Brazilians a chance to help their home country.

Let the Good Times Roll
The numbers make a move back enticing, even for those who aren’t motivated by altruism. One headhunter says that he’s seen the head of an investment bank earn $7 million and managing directors taking up to $2.5-3 million. These may be top-end exceptions but average packages are good too, even much further down the scale. An equity research associate with a few years’ experience should be getting $500,000 and a senior research analyst $1-1.5 million. In fact, the thirst for talent’s so great that Brazilian banks are even considering poaching lusophone gringos from the States, says Rossanna Figuera, head of the Latin America group for recruiters Options Group. According to her, one local bank wants at least 15% of its positions to be filled from overseas and they don’t need to be Brazilians.

In a sign of the super-heated times, top Brazilian bank executives are heading overseas to solicit talent. And they are not just scouring Wall Street and the City for seasoned professionals but are also staring to trawl the campuses of the world’s top MBA schools for greener talent, says Ademar Couto, managing director at the São Paulo office of headhunters Ray & Berndtson. Unlike in the past, Brazilians don’t need to work in New York for a few years to build up their CV; they are increasingly able to land a good job in Brazil straight after their MBA. He’s so sure of the trend that he’s teamed up with Deborah Rivera of The Succession Group: she’ll identify Brazilian talent in New York while he gets the clients in Brazil that want them.

In a way, this is simply a flow-back of the diaspora of professionals of a few years ago, Figuera reasons. “Brazil saw a large outflow of human capital in the ‘90s and early 2000s. That’s now reversing. The improvement in the Brazilian economy and fears flowing from 9/11 are key factors,” she says.

If recruiters are rubbing their hands, bankers with a hiring budget are rubbing their temples. For Aoude, hiring has been one of his most daunting tasks as CEO of Deutsche Bank. Deutsche was forced to use both big packages and be creative to build its team in Brazil. So, instead of looking for a banker to fill a banker’s job, he considered a variety of other backgrounds from CFOs through equity analysts and equity capital markets. He says the gambit paid off and he has taken talent from Credit Suisse, Santander, Morgan Stanley and Dresdner Kleinwort, he says.

“The competition for MBAs is really active because consultants and investment banks are expanding so fast. This is leaving banks unable to fill positions,” says Jorge Maluf, a partner at Korn Ferry in São Paulo. One alternative to the trend for recruiting from overseas is focusing on training for internal staff, he says. Investing in coaching and mentoring to bring staff up to speed enables banks to promote and reward staff more quickly, which acts as a good incentive to stay on. It’s a delicate balance though as there’s a danger of overly rapid promotion with all the associated risks: difficulties with managing teams or having to report to multiple, senior bosses with differing agendas after a straight line report. In general, younger staff are often less able to prioritise and reconcile the needs of many bosses, he says.

More worrying than competition from internal staff is guessing just how long the good times last, although with Brazil headed for investment grade, most see at least a two or three year window of opportunity. All are aware of the risk of the markets backsliding: “It’s a very unstable market: black to white in a couple of years,” fears equity analyst Coutinho.

For many, it’s worth that risk. There’s a sense of pride at giving something back to the homeland. Manasseh, a development banker at the São Paulo office of the International Finance Corporation, feels she can contribute more here: “In Washington, you’re better paid than you are in the field, it’s true. But it’s much more interesting and challenging here. Solutions tend to be more cookie cutter in DC; here you see that there are many alternatives.” Brazil is also advancing rapidly in areas such as social responsibility and sustainability opening up a whole host of new opportunities, she says. Gentil, head of Darby Overseas Investments’ operations in Brazil, had been away for 10 years. In that time, markets have undergone a secular change. “It was a financial game then – arbitrage and financial structuring. Now, you can see investment in productive enterprises and owners of companies investing capital in their business. That’s a big motivation for coming back,” he says.

The job decision may be a no-brainer but for some São Paulo is not the easiest city to adjust to. Work hours are as erratic as they are in the US and Europe and typically more gruelling. Plus, you also have to factor in traffic. Most agree that the city’s notorious transit is infernal and getting worse. Some, like Coutinho, have got round it by sensibly deciding to live near the office and have found their working day has been trimmed – she finds she typically works 12 hours compared to 14 plus in New York. “I used to pull quite a few all-nighters there,” she remembers. That gives her time to hang out with friends, many of whom she met in the States, like the three Brazilians who she worked with at Lehman in New York. “We’ve all landed back here now,” she says (one’s at Santander, one at Itaú, and the last at Merrill). The cut in hours is exceptional though and others find coming back more of a shock: “There are just a lot more people, cars and traffic and the infrastructure hasn’t improved that much – it’s tougher to do things. You have to organise your life around these problems so I’ve re-learned when to leave home to avoid the traffic,” says Gentil.

The ever-present risk of violence is a worry for all but it’s those with children that fear it the most. “Security is my number one concern,” says Carioca father-of-three Miranda, now head of integrated risk management for ABN Amro. Still, he feels safer than he would do in his hometown where he notes his mother doesn’t leave the house after 6pm. One ex-pat who came over with his Brazilian wife and family, also lists it as the city’s biggest draw-back, adding that he sees his posting as temporary and would like to go back to the US, particularly for schooling.

Even for those who take a more philosophical approach, a number of adjustments need to be made. “Your day-to-day activity changes. For example, I never carry bank statements with me. And I carry an ATM linked to a current account with little money rather than to my main account. That way, if I get attacked, they can’t clean me out,” said one returnee.

But Rocha argues that for Brazilians, “it’s easier to find accommodation and good places for kids to study than it is in London.” There can be pros to for families coming back with kids, he adds. The extended Brazilian family means childcare comes gratis. Others note that the US is hardly immune from gun violence and that at least Brazil doesn’t have the threat of terrorism and the ever-present shadow of 9/11. And materially, life’s more comfortable. “In the US and Europe, bankers find it difficult to save. Here, they can have bigger apartments and live in the top areas and more people have a week-end house,” points out Figuera. That said, the appreciation of the real is putting a big dent in the differential, she cautions.

As for going out and cultural life, São Paulo and New York are both rich centres. For Aoude, arriving in São Paulo “wasn’t that bad. Respecting the gigantic differences, the speed and quality of service is similar to New York.” And the Hispanic night-life means that São Paulo is the more deserving of the two of the sobriquet ‘the city that never sleeps’, says Figuera. “You can take sailing courses at 9pm in São Paulo. I can’t imagine that here.” That’s a plus for most bankers whose hours mean that otherwise it’d be car-work-car-bed. “You can still have a life,” agrees one. The city is working hard to stage more cultural events than in the past too although in this area it remains far behind the likes of London and New York.

“My Dad thought I was crazy when I said I was coming back,” recounts Manasseh. ‘“The traffic, the violence, the corruption! What would you want to come back for?” he asked’. He had a point, she thought. But when she reflects on her decision, on balance she’s rather glad she did.

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