Are Brazilian Banks Ready for Foreign Business?
This article will give you an overview of how well prepared Brazilian banks are to facilitate international businesses that want to establish in Brazil.
For years the international eyes had been looking at Brazil, a steady flow of investments are flowing into the country and from the outside it seems like Brazil is doing a lot to facilitate foreigners that want to establish businesses in the country.
To find out how easy it is for foreigners to do business in Brazil on an operational level we have contacted the seven largest banks in Brazil to find out how they are tuned for international clients.
What is needed to open a bank account in Brazil?
In order for a business to open a bank account in Brazil there are federal requirements that apply across all the Brazilian banks:
- You need a registered entity in Brazil (CNPJ)
- You need a business address in Brazil
- The person who administrate the account need a CPF
With the correct documents in place we wanted to find out three things:
- Does the bank facilitates the opening of Brazilian bank accounts from abroad?
- Does the bank provides information and customer service in other languages than Portuguese?
- Is the online banking available in other languages than Portuguese?
Very popular amongst Brazilians, Itaú has become the largest South American bank after its merger with Unibanco. It has branches in Japan, Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, Portugal, UK, USA and China.
Itaú is clearly the most international tuned bank in Brazil and allows clients to open a Brazilian bank account from its branches in Japan, Argentina, Chile and Uruguay.
Although the bank has webpages in English and Spanish they are solely focusing on shareholders relations and do not inform about services offered by the bank. Itaú also informed that they do not have any corporate strategy towards providing services in other languages than Portuguese and their online banking is only available in Portuguese.
Website in English: http://www.itau.com/
Banco do Brasil
The largest South American bank in terms of assets, Banco do Brasil holds a strong position in Brazil, with more than 15 000 branches throughout the country.
Although Banco do Brasil operates branches in 20 different countries, these branches are separated from their operations in Brazil and will not be able to facilitate services like the opening of a Brazilian bank account from abroad.
Banco do Brasil has webpages in English, but they are solely focused on shareholder relations and do not inform about services offered by the bank. Banco do Brasil also informed that they do not have any corporate strategy towards providing services in other languages than Portuguese apart from in those countries they operate foreign branches and their online banking for Brazil is only available in Portuguese.
Website in English: http://www.bb.com.br/
Banco Santander belongs to the Spanish based Santander group and it is the largest bank in the Eurozone. In Brazil, it is ranked as the third private bank based on active numbers and the first among the international ones after taking over Banco Real from ABN AMRO.
Although Santander is an international bank, Santander Brazil does not offer services in any foreign language. Even its Brazilian website is restricted to Portuguese.
The bank does not offer the possibility of opening a Brazilian bank account in one of its many branches abroad.
Santander Brazil informed that they do not have a corporate strategy towards providing services in foreign languages and their online banking services reflects this by not providing other options than Portuguese.
With its headquarters in New York city, Citibank is a well known international bank that belongs to Citigroup.
Citibank branches in Brazil do not provide its costumers with a bilingual service nor online banking in English. However, it is the only Brazilian bank that provides decent information about their Brazilian services in English on their webpage.
It is not possible to open a Brazilian bank account in one of Citibank's many branches abroad.
Website in English: https://www.latinamerica.citibank.com/
Present in 91 countries and ranked as the sixth-largest banking and financial services group in 2010, HSBC has been present in Brazil since 1997.
HSBC Brazil has stated on its website that opening a Brazilian bank account abroad is not only impossible as it is illegal according to the Brazilian law. It is an interesting approach as Itaú clearly demonstrate that it is possible to open a Brazilian bank account from abroad.
Although HSBC Brazil has webpages in English, they only provide information to support private people with their banking needs and does not inform about any services for businesses. Their online banking is only in Portuguese .
HSBC Brazil informed that although they do not have a corporate strategy for bilingual services in Brazil they will be able to provide customer service over the phone in English from their centralized customer support center in Brazil.
Website in English: http://www.hsbc.com.br/
Bradesco is the second largest private bank in Brazil and its growth is the result of several mergers and takeovers, with more than 3 000 branches throughout the country.
It has a website in English, but its content is focused on relation with its shareholders and does not include information about the services the bank is offering for its international clients.
Bradesco's communication department was not able to provide information about the bank corporate strategy towards providing services in foreign language.
Website in English: http://www.bradescori.com.br/
Banrisul (Banco do Estado do Rio Grande do Sul) is a state bank with business focus on Brazil's south area. It has one office in New York and another one in Grand Cayman. According to Banco Central, Banrisul occupied the 10th position in the rank of the 50 largest Brazilian banks in 2010.
Even though it has offices abroad, it does not differ from the other banks: they do not have a costumer service in another language and its website content is restricted to Portuguese.
When foreigners start to do business in Brazil, banking services are one of the first operational services needed. A quick look at banks in the other BRIC countries clearly indicates that Brazil is lagging behind in terms of internationalizing its banking industry.
In Russia, India and China the major banks have a corporate strategy to provide a full range of services in two or three different languages including English.
As most of them are exclusively focused on the Brazilian market and none of the majors banks provides full range of services in English, the Brazilian banking market will still claim that they are open for international business as long as you speak Portuguese.
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