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Rich Brazilians Moving to Portugal Pull Local Bankers With Them

(Bloomberg) — Banks including Itau Unibanco Holding SA and Banco Bradesco SA are considering opening wealth-management offices in Portugal amid a surge in Brazilians moving to the European nation.

“We’re studying whether to have some bankers there,” said Luiz Severiano Ribeiro, head of global private banking for Itau, the biggest wealth manager in Brazil. “We have clients that moved to Portugal, and we believe our edge is to be close to our clients.”

Portugal is attracting foreigners with tax incentives and resident permits for non-Europeans who purchase real estate worth more than 500,000 euros ($550,000). For Brazilians, a common language is an added draw, as is Portugal’s reputation for safety — it took third place in the 2019 Global Peace Index, compared with Brazil’s ranking of 116.

There were 105,423 Brazilian residents in Portugal at the end of 2018, up 23% from the previous year, according to the Service of Immigration and Frontiers. About 28,000 Brazilians emigrated there last year, more than twice the number who made the move in 2017.

“There is no final decision yet, but I really believe there’s a business for us in Portugal,” said Renato Ejnisman, head of global private banking for Osasco-based Bradesco, the second-biggest wealth manager in Brazil. “It would make sense for us to have a presence there.”

XP Investimentos SA, the biggest Brazilian brokerage firm, and Banco BTG Pactual SA are already starting private-banking businesses in Portugal.

BTG, based in Sao Paulo, is planning to have as many as five bankers there when it opens its Lisbon office, according to partner Luiz Raphael Guinle.

“A lot of Brazilians, mainly from Rio, are moving out to Portugal, to Europe, to the U.S. — but mainly to Portugal,” Guinle said, adding that Brexit is an added push for Brazilians in London to consider relocating to Portugal. “Depending on what happens with Brexit, Brazilians living in London, a new hub for them could be Portugal.”

“We have lots of clients leaving Rio to live in Portugal because of the crisis in the city, so we have to be there,” he said, referring to an increase in homicides and unemployment.

Brazilians represent the biggest chunk of foreign residents in Portugal, at 22%. That’s more than three times the No. 2 source of immigrants, Cape Verde, the archipelago that won independence from Portugal in 1975. Brazilians are also the biggest foreign property investors in Lisbon, according to the brokers’ association APEMIP.