In XP vs Itaú, XP is an archetypal David
The awkward truce in Brazil between XP Inc and Itaú broke down in a very public way in June.
Ever since 2016, when the then Itaú CEO – and now chairman of the board – Roberto Setubal agreed to buy into then privately held XP Investimentos (now Nasdaq-listed XP Inc), there had been an unsustainably quiet approach to their increasingly fierce competition.
In June, Itaú bared its teeth. Brazil’s biggest private-sector bank launched an advertising campaign that seeks to retain its mass-affluent clients within its own investment platform by alleging an inherent conflict of interest between the autonomous agents that bring the majority of assets under custody (AuC) to the XP Inc platform.
XP responded by pointing out Itaú’s self-interest in keeping its clients buying its own investment products – with higher fees and lower returns than XP's digital platform thay has quickly been making the industry standard.
It has also been quick to highlight Itaú’s own conflict of interest: its decision to buy into XP, for example.
“Actions speak louder than words,” said XP’s founder and CEO, Guilherme Benchimol, in an acerbic response on social media.
He even stated that Itaú was free to divest its XP stake if it didn’t like its business model.
The deal to which Benchimol was alluding insulates Itaú’s senior management – as leading shareholders – to a certain degree.