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Brazilian retail banking: A question of efficiency

Brazil’s retail banks need to adapt to a new low interest rate environment. With the years of easy revenue growth seemingly coming to an end, the other side of the efficiency equation – cost – is at the forefront. Technology will be critical to improving efficiency, but will the returns follow the investment?

On the third floor of the ultra-plush new São Paulo shopping mall JK is a Bradesco. As you enter the space (there are no doors) a little white robot whirs towards you and greets you with a blue neon smile. The rest of the concept store uses the latest touch-screen technology to tell the bank’s story about its past, present and future. "What would a bank of the future look like if the future was right now?" asks Bradesco, based on the assumption that the flagship project’s use of interactive technology along the walls and on table tops answers its own question.

Bradesco has put its branded flag into technology investment. It boasts that it is not just ahead of the retail banking competition in Brazil but is leading the way in the use of technology throughout the southern hemisphere. The programme began in 2003 and is due to be completed next year, by which time the bank will have spent a total of R$1.8 billion ($888 million) in its IT Revitalization Programme. The aim was, and is, to improve efficiency. And although the timing looks inspired, with today’s changing landscape of Brazilian retail banking placing a greater emphasis on efficiency gains than ever before, some question whether the bank’s use of technology is being sufficiently radical.

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