In 1996, Charles Stewart left Morgan Stanley’s New York office, where he was an analyst in the M&A department focusing mainly on Latin American M&A, and headed south to Latin America. He opened the Brazil office, quite literally: Stewart was the first person on the ground for the US bank. “I was employee number one,” he says.
During his two spells in the country (1996-99 and 2008-10) Stewart was responsible for growing Morgan Stanley’s brand and business in Brazil. During his first spell he worked on some of the largest deals ever to come out of the country, including the Telebras privatization and the international IPO of Unibanco. “It was a fantastic time to be a banker here, working on some of the seminal privatizations,” he says.
Then came the Russian crisis in 1998 and the subsequent devaluation of the real, and Stewart was pulled back to the US, leaving Brazil and a greatly reduced Morgan Stanley office behind. But he was back in 2008 and witnessed for himself how the country proved to be resilient to the effects of the global crisis.
Then came an offer to be Morgan Stanley’s deputy head of investment banking for EMEA and the chance to fulfil a long-held desire to live and work in London. This, coupled with the draw of Morgan Stanley’s larger European platform, took him, his Brazilian wife and three children across the Atlantic.
But the pull of Latin America soon took hold again. In June this year Stewart joined Itaú BBA International as its European CEO. The Brazilian bank has recently relocated its headquarters from Lisbon to London and, having received regulatory approval from the Financial Services Authority in late 2012, is ready to begin a more concerted, proactive approach to the market, taking in its wide spread of products covering corporate financing, asset management and private banking as well as the investment bank’s securities business.
Euromoney catches up with Stewart in the summer. He is in São Paulo as part of an introductory tour of Itaú’s Latin American businesses. From his background of working in Brazil he knew about Itaú Unibanco and Itaú BBA, but he seems to have been struck by seeing the breadth and depth of the Brazilian bank’s coverage for himself. The first challenge, says Stewart, is to build awareness among European companies and investors of the dominance that Itaú enjoys in Brazil.
For the full interview go to Euromoney.com