Brazil’s Cohab Aboulafia Family Seeks Partners for Growth

Cainvest International Bank Ltd., the wealth-management firm controlled by Brazil’s Cohab Aboulafia family, plans to expand in Latin America by partnering with family offices.

“We decided it’s the best way to offer proper service to our clients and have a high-quality front office without needing too heavy a structure,” Cainvest Chief Executive Officer Charles Aboulafia, 30, said in an interview.

Cainvest has agreements with 10 family offices and plans to add about 15 others, Aboulafia said, adding that the firm is targeting assets under management of about $1 billion in two years. The Grand Cayman-based firm agreed in April 2011 to acquire Sul America International Bank Ltd., and has invested about $30 million since then, mostly on technology for back-office, custody and money-transfer operations.

“We will keep the same philosophy of our family owned group and never take on debt or get leveraged,” Aboulafia said, explaining that his grandfather, Charles Cohab, taught him that too much debt “can break a company and leave clients with losses.”

Cohab, 86, founded the family group in 1961 after leaving Syria amid political persecutions, said Aboulafia, who worked at Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. before the New York-based firm went bankrupt.

The Cohab Aboulafia family is Brazil’s second-biggest producer of polyester tissue used in making shoes, furniture and other products under the brand Trisoft. It exports to Argentina, Chile, Uruguay and Paraguay.

Entrepreneur Relationships

“We are planning to grow in the wealth-management business using relationships that we already have with our clients from the industrial unit,” Aboulafia said. He declined to say how much the firm manages now. Barreto & Partners and Countryserv are two of the family offices Cainvest has joined with under the new strategy, according to Aboulafia.

Cainvest targets clients with $1 million to $5 million to invest, because they “aren’t as well-served by banks, which prefer bigger tickets,” Aboulafia said.

Cainvest pays 25 percent of net revenue to the family offices. If the family office brings clients to Cainvest, it also receives a commission. The model was developed with the help of Eduardo Oliveira, chief strategist at Cainvest and the former CEO of wealth management at UBS Pactual and ex-head of global markets at Deutsche Bank Brazil.

Oliveira will leave Cainvest at the end of the year with his job “very well done,” Aboulafia said.

Cainvest said in July it obtained approval to be listed on the Cayman Islands Stock Exchange as it sought capital for an acquisition. “We lost the acquisition bid and now will seek other opportunities,” Aboulafia said.

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