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Opinion

Latin America's bulge-bracket banks: Staying power

The bulge-bracket firms are back in Latin America – and their resolve will surely be tested over the next 12 months.

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This year’s winners of the Awards for Excellence in Latin America include some surprising names. Not least, perhaps, Goldman Sachs, the region’s best investment bank for advisory.

Goldman has something of a credibility question hanging over it in Latin America. The local banks like to use Goldman as an example to clients (and journalists) of the fickleness of the bulge-bracket firms in the region. The locals over-simplified the waxing and waning of Goldman’s commitment to Latin America, but it was based on sufficient fact to make a point. 

The locals were always going to be there for clients “because they had nowhere to go,” they say. The local universal banks added this line while they leveraged their balance-sheet relationships like crazy. And they were effective. 

Meanwhile, the other international banks that had built bigger and more stable offices, balance sheets and presence in the core Latin America countries also used Goldman to differentiate their onshore strategy.

But in a faintly religious echo of chief executive Lloyd Blankfein’s claim that the bank is doing God’s work, Goldman has risen again. It has used judicious hires of bankers with long-standing regional relationships to blend with the usual Goldman strengths of reputation and risk taking. 




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