Itaú’s response to platforms reaches R$400 billion
In November 2020, when Itaú Unibanco announced the creation of the ion to face off against investment platforms, many people turned up their noses. In the market, the comments were that the bank was reacting late.
A year and a half later, the largest private bank in the country has just given its answer: the ion reached R$ 400 billion in net equity under management and administration at the beginning of June. And, according to Itaú executives, it expects to close the year with almost R$ 550 billion in its portfolio.
“This is a great victory for us, as we were able to implement our offices and our strategy like clockwork”, says Fabio Horta, head of distribution and investment advice at Itaú Unibanco, responsible for ion, when NeoFeed. “We have seen tremendous adherence from customers and our employees to the ion model.”
With 460,000 users, ion is aimed at customers who have checking accounts in the Uniclass and Personnalité segments, in which monthly income of R$4,000 and R$15,000, respectively, is required.
The idea is that it complements the services offered at the agencies. Until the launch of ion, managers were responsible for guiding clients in both retail and credit services and investments. Itaú’s intention is for clients to transfer their applications to the platform, receive specialized service and be able to invest both in products from the house and from other managers.
The platform also brings a series of resources for people to invest on their own, including recommendations and profitability comparisons. It also offers the possibility to consult investment advisors, all Itaú employees, located in 110 offices in the main cities of the country and that can be visited by clients who want a face-to-face service.
Horta says the ion helped to stop the loss of clients, especially high-income ones, to other investment houses. Without opening numbers, he stated that, as of October last year, the bank began to see an inversion in the flow of funds, based on TED and DOC data made for accounts of the same ownership. Until then, the data indicated an exit.
“We were also able to protect the portability of pension plans, which had a negative flow in a period”, says the head of distribution and investment advisory at Itaú Unibanco. “Now, the flow is generally positive, with net funding in all products.”
According to Eduardo Forestieri, superintendent of Itaú Unibanco’s ion investment offices, adherence to the platform can be explained in this interaction with traditional relationship managers. “Ion complemented the menu of products and services, customers did not know the entire product offering”, he says.
Another issue highlighted by Horta is the remuneration model for investment advisors. Unlike XP and BTG Pactual, who used independent offices, Itaú hires its advisors under the CLT regime, with fixed and variable remuneration, the latter linked to the profitability of the client portfolio, satisfaction with the services provided by specialists and the total invested with the bank.
“This makes the advisor look for the product that best fits the client’s profile, because he will only win if the client wins”, he says. Horta’s expectation is to calmly fulfill one of the main goals set for the first years of ion: to obtain R$ 500 billion in assets under management by September, when the implementation of the offices ends.
This optimism, by the way, makes him estimate to close the year with up to R$ 550 billion in assets. Data from the Brazilian Association of Financial and Capital Market Entities (Anbima) show that Itaú has total assets under custody of R$ 1.57 trillion.
Horta expects to close the year with 129 units, one more than established, with a total of 2,500 professionals. In the case of the number of users, Itaú did not set a target, understanding that adoption, at this first moment, must occur spontaneously.
“If you ask any bank executive, even Milton Maluhy [CEO do Itaú Unibanco], they will tell you that the size of the ion will depend on customer adoption”, says Forestieri. “Of course, the more we bring in, the better, but our goal now is for customers to be satisfied with the product.”
Despite this cautious speech, the bank is studying attracting more customers by adopting other strategies. Horta plans to expand ion’s operations to markets that are still underserved and does not rule out opening it to people who are not Itaú account holders. More: sees the possibility of working with autonomous agents in the future.
“We cannot ignore this aspect, which has been very successful with other players, but it is a tired model in the current market”, he says. “It is a model whose characteristic is acquisition with speed, different from ours. They can live together, but the decision will be made carefully, at the right time.”
Other banks are also moving to strengthen the investment area and, consequently, fundraising. Santander announced yesterday, June 1st, its intention to hire 1,200 investment advisors to strengthen its brokerage and expand assets under management, currently at R$300 billion.
Bradesco entered the fray through Ágora, acquired in 2008 and recently relaunched, incorporating individual Bradesco Corretora clients. But the path that the brokerage has to go is long, considering that it closed the first quarter with R$ 73.2 billion in custody. Bradesco’s total assets in custody, according to Anbima, is R$ 2 trillion.
Banks’ efforts aim to minimize the losses incurred in recent years for investment platforms. XP, for example, closed the first quarter with R$873 billion in custody, and a base of 10,700 advisors. And the number of self-employed agents should rise by 5,000 by the end of the year, as the company anticipated when NeoFeed.
For Diego Ramiro, president of the Brazilian Association of Autonomous Investment Agents (Abaai), an entity that represents 148 offices of independent investment advisors, the focus of banks was never investments, it was more retail and credit.
“They didn’t pay enough attention to the advisors,” says Ramiro. “It was when Itaú announced, in 2017, the purchase of 49% in XP, that the traditional model began to accept that investment platforms are here to stay.” But the banks are moving, and judging by their size and strength, it’s best not to doubt the power of reaction.