Photographer: Victor J. Blue/Bloomberg

Argentina Brokerage Seeks Partner Ahead of Sector Consolidation

  • TPCG pursues foreign alliance as investment flows return
  • ‘The right time to grow’ says co-founder Ileana Aiello

Argentine brokerage TPCG Group is looking to form a strategic alliance with a foreign partner in anticipation of industry consolidation as international funds flow back into the Latin American nation.

Buenos Aires-based TPCG sees the current brokerage houses, which number around 180, being cut down to about 10 as Argentina re-opens to foreign investment, according to co-founder and managing director Ileana Aiello. This comes after more than a decade of exchange controls, state interventionism and isolation from global capital markets.

"The plan would be sell a stake to a foreign partner to later become together bidders on some small, local brokerages," Aiello said. "Our ideal candidate is someone bringing a name, technology and capital that helps us to become a AAA rated company, a full-fledged broker-dealer with the capacity to offer every product to our clients."

TPCG, also an asset manager with with almost 7 billion pesos ($457 million) under management, is looking for a partner with the expertise to develop a wealth-management unit, Aiello said. This year, after a national tax-amnesty plan, Argentines have declared $117 billion of hidden funds. While 80 percent of those funds remain outside of the country, TPCG is preparing for waves of repatriation. According to Aiello, TPCG has a pipeline of about $300 million of assets to manage ready to enter the nation.

‘Change-Resistant’

Aiello, one of five co-founders who established the firm in 1997, remains a rarity as a woman in senior leadership in a traditionally male-dominated field.

Males comprised 75 percent of the financial advisers and stockbrokers registered in the U.S. from 2005 to 2015, according to research by Gregor Matvos and professors at Stanford University and the University of Chicago. In Latin America, despite the "growing participation of women in spheres formerly reserved for men," this growth is "still occurring in the framework of a change-resistant gender order," according to the United Nations’ Gender Equality Observatory for Latin America and the Caribbean.

Yet Aiello isn’t a rarity at TPCG, where "more than half of our 85 employees are currently women," she said, crediting her partners for the hiring. In fact, the firm’s gender ratio led to a mix-up a few years ago for Aiello, when she started receiving phone calls from outraged colleagues.

Why, they asked, was the brokerage discriminating against women?

It turns out an advertisement for an analyst in TPCG’s office in Montevideo, Uruguay, contained the caveat, "Males only should apply." But it wasn’t to limit the number of women at the firm.

"It’s the opposite," Aiello recalls explaining to the concerned callers. "Eight out of 10 of our Montevideo employees are women."

IPO Outlook

Aiello also found her partners accommodating when she became a mother and faced the hardship of losing two hours a day in commuting time. In response, TPCG opened an office in San Isidro, a few blocks from her house.

"They adapted to me, because TPCG is a flexible company that always adapts to this changing world," she said.

Part of that adaptation may mean selling a stake of the company on the open market at some point, Aiello said. 

"I would say we are almost ready," she said, adding that firm started looking at a potential initial public offering five years ago. "It’s not an imminent plan, but I do not rule out anything. This is the right time to grow in Argentina. It’s a country that will have plenty of businesses."

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