Lazaro de Mello Brandao, who at 91 is the world's oldest serving bank chairman, said he'll step down after more than 25 years in that role at Banco Bradesco SA, triggering a succession race at Brazil's second-largest bank by market value.

Brandao will be replaced by Luiz Carlos Trabuco Cappi, the current chief executive officer who will hold both positions until March, when the lender will elect a new CEO, according to a regulatory filing Tuesday.

The executive, who started as a 16-year-old clerk in 1943, eventually became one of just two chairmen Bradesco has ever had and one of four CEOs, a title he held from 1981 to 1999. He became the world's oldest banking chairman last May, according to data compiled by Bloomberg, when Robert E. Bull, 94, announced his retirement from First Keystone Community Bank in Berwick, Pennsylvania.

"There's a need to renew the bank's board to ensure its continuity," Brandao, who holds the No. 1 employee badge at Osasco-based Bradesco, told journalists Wednesday, adding that it was his decision to resign. He'll remain in charge of some of Bradesco's holding companies.

As chairman, Brandao fostered a management culture that favored executives promoted from the company's existing ranks rather than looking outside for new talent — a course Bradesco is set to keep when choosing Trabuco's replacement. The bank will pick from among its seven highest ranking executives, people with knowledge of the matter said, asking not to be identified because the discussions are private.
Talent Pool

"The new CEO choice will respect Bradesco's own pool of talent," Trabuco said at the media event.

Bradesco shares fell 1.2 percent to 36.63 reais at 3:02 p.m. in Sao Paulo, and are up almost 39 percent year-to-date.

Last year, Bradesco said it had changed its bylaws to increase the maximum age for CEOs to 67 from 65, giving Trabuco until the beginning of this year to name his successor. At the time, Trabuco was involved in one of Brazil's many corruption probes, the so-called Zelotes tax-fraud case. He has since been cleared of all charges.

Brandao said he has no regrets from his 75-year stint at the company, and he'll keep the same desk he's been working at over the past couple of years.

"When I told my family I was leaving, their reaction was: It's about time," Brandao said.

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