July 11, 2019 / 12:49 PM / a year ago

Brazil's Itaú Unibanco looks for new niches to expand wholesale unit

SAO PAULO, July 11 (Reuters) - Brazil’s largest private-sector lender Itau Unibanco Holding SA plans to expand its commercial banking unit into business niches such as technology and seek smaller clients in agribusiness, an executive said on Thursday.

Itau’s push to draw clients comes as loans to large companies have shrunk amid the country’s sluggish economic recovery.

The bank intends to expand services for rural producers, betting that all-time low benchmark interest rates and government cuts in subsidies will leave room for more private-sector credit and other financial products.

Commercial executive director Flavio Souza said in an interview that Itau is targeting up to 5,000 rural producers with annual sales above 5 million reais as clients. Before, the bank focused on farms with sales above 30 million reais.

The bank now provides financial products such as derivatives and loans to 350 rural producers.

Nationwide outstanding loans to farmers from all banks surpassed 250 billion reais in April, according to Brazil’s central bank.

Itau has also formed a group of executives to analyze technology companies and understand their needs, he said. Souza took the helm of the commercial banking unit in January.

“Tech firms work in a very different way. Usually they don’t have strong results, but it doesn’t mean the bank can’t provide services for them,” said Souza. “We must be close to them because they will grow, list their shares and lure investors in the future.”

The bank may also create clusters to support companies in new niches in the near future, he added. (Reporting by Carolina Mandl Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)

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