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Banking

BAML’s global strategy pays off in Latin American push

Bank of America Merrill Lynch has become one of the top-five investment banks in Latin America in just two years. There are plans to double revenues over the next three. In its new role as a universal bank, will BAML be able to compete with the international banking incumbents? Helen Avery reports.

WHEN BANK OF America took over Merrill Lynch in September 2008, it looked like bad timing for Merrill’s Latin American investment banking business. After having shown a lack of commitment to Latin America for several years, Merrill Lynch’s then chief executive, John Thain, was just six months into a renewed build-up in the region. In March 2008, the firm had taken on nine senior investment bankers in Brazil to spearhead a push in the region and they were just beginning to make inroads. Given Bank of America’s perceived bias towards its domestic market, it seemed that the push made on the Merrill Lynch side at broadening into Latin America would, once again, be abandoned or slowed. Two years on, though, those thoughts now seem consigned to history. The combined firm is in the top five for market share in Latin America in M&A, ECM and DCM and it has no plans to stop there.

Alexandre Bettamio was the man Thain hired to lead the build-out in Brazil. He had been co-head of investment banking at UBS Pactual. With him came seven other former UBS Pactual bankers, and one from Itaú BBA. It was a big coup for Merrill Lynch as UBS Pactual was, with Credit Suisse, one of the top-two investment banks in the region.

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