Brazil’s Next Central Bank Chief Has a Long Family History

(Bloomberg) -- The man who helped found Brazil’s central bank didn’t live long enough to see his grandson take over as its next president, but his legacy appears to have survived.

While Roberto Campos Neto, whose Senate approval for the leadership post is expected later this month, hasn’t made clear where he might take monetary policy in Latin America’s biggest economy, clues can be found by looking to his grandfather and namesake, Roberto Campos.

Brazil’s Next Central Bank Chief Has a Long Family History

“Campos Neto was very close to his grandfather, who was his main mentor,” said Alexandre Aoude, a friend of the nominee who used to run Deutsche Bank AG’s Brazil unit.

The grandfather, a controversial economist, diplomat, writer and politician who enjoyed sprinkling his conversation with dry witticisms, helped mold Brazil’s economic liberalism in the 1950s and 1960s, and as Brazil’s planning minister signed the decree that created the central bank in 1964.

The grandson, who declined to be interviewed for this story, has so far been reticent about making his policy views public. But his trading background -- the 49-year-old Campos Neto was a top treasury executive for the Americas at Banco Santander SA, where he worked for a total of 16 years -- leaves no doubt he understands the language of the markets.

“Wherever he went, he made money,” said Aoude, who’s a founding partner at investment firm Vectis Partners in Sao Paulo. “As a trader and the head of treasury departments at banks and funds, he’s made the right decisions most of the time.”

Working Abroad

In taking on his first public-service role, Campos Neto heads to the central bank with a deep understanding of international investors. Much of that experience comes from his work at Santander Americas’ treasury business, which had offices in the U.S., Mexico, Chile, Peru, Brazil and Argentina. Campos Neto also oversaw the market-making business at the bank, a job that introduced him to dozens of fund managers and company executives looking to invest in Brazil.

Experience abroad is another trait shared by his grandfather, who served as Brazil’s ambassador in Washington and London. Those roles earned him the nickname “Bob Fields” -- an exact English translation of his name that was used as a way to criticize his penchant for foreign capital.

Although later in his life the grandfather was one of the most vocal opponents of socialism or any type of state interventionism, in 1951 he defended the creation of the nation’s development bank, where he later served as president. Economy Minister Paulo Guedes admired him so much, he proposed that his grandson head the central bank. President Jair Bolsonaro, who has given Guedes sweeping powers to run the economy, agreed.

Management Style

Colleagues who worked with Campos Neto during his 10 years at Santander say he was a skilled negotiator, with a flexible approach that helped him build long-lasting relationships not only with his superiors at the bank but also with his team and clients. They said he fostered a relaxed culture while serving as a mentor for his colleagues, compared with some other executives at the bank whose management styles sometimes humiliated subordinates. None of the colleagues agreed to be identified, citing Campos Neto’s future job as a public official.

Before Santander, Campos Neto traded interest rates, derivatives, debt and stocks at Banco Bozano Simonsen SA, which was sold to Santander in 2000. Previous jobs included a stint as a portfolio manager at hedge fund Claritas Investimentos e Participações Ltda. He earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in economics from the University of California, Los Angeles, specializing in finance. He also has a master’s degree in applied mathematics from the California Institute of Technology.

Campos Neto, who was born in Rio de Janeiro, is an avid sportsman who likes tennis, running and lifting weights, according to the central bank. He spends his evenings at home with his family, all of whom travel in armored cars after once becoming victims of a robbery.

‘Pragmatic Guy’

“The modern central banker has become a lot more technologically sophisticated, and someone like Campos brings unique skills to the equation, since he has been at a very large bank, knows how markets work, understands the regulatory environment, and has fantastic contacts around the world,” said Hari Hariharan, chief executive officer of NWI Management LP. “He’s a pragmatic guy,” said Hariharan, who worked at Santander and has known Campos for 16 years.

Gustavo Loyola, a former president of the central bank during the 1990s, said “continuity” with the policies of his predecessor, Ilan Goldfajn, will probably characterize Campos Neto’s tenure. Loyola, now a partner at advisory firm Tendencias Consultoria Integrada, expects a “central bank committed to the inflation-target regime, preserving the credibility earned during Ilan’s time.”

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