Latin America: How BTG came through the ultimate stress test

Rob Dwyer
Published on:

When Brazilian federal police knocked on the door of André Esteves’ Rio de Janeiro home on the morning of November 25, 2015, they were not only arresting one of the country’s most prominent bankers, they were also delivering a hammer blow to his bank, BTG Pactual. There followed a stress test that would threaten the collapse of the bank. Here’s the story of how the partners forged a business model for BTG in the glare of public scrutiny.

Illustration: Pete Ellis

Roberto Sallouti was running on his treadmill at his home in São Paulo in the early morning of Wednesday November 25, 2015, when his mobile phone buzzed, out of his reach. The then senior vice-president and board member of BTG Pactual maintained his pace. It was only when the phone continued to buzz angrily over the next minute or so that he looked at it. There were many missed calls, including quite a few from the bank’s front desk. He returned the call.

"The federal police are here, lots of agents," he was told.

Sallouti assumed the unannounced visit was in regards to a client matter – as the leading bank for Brazil’s richest families, legal issues tended to crop up from time to time. He switched off the treadmill, hoping to be able to resolve the matter and clear the bank’s reception of police agents before...