Bloomberg Línea — Brazilian investment fund manager XP Investimentos SA (XP) is facing a potential crisis as Q4 2022 results disappointed, the company’s CCO Bernardo Amaral left the C-suite on Thursday and analysts are foreseeing staff layoffs.
And to add insult to injury, Guilherme Benchimol, XP’s founder and major shareholder, launched a fierce criticism of the firm and criticized its brokers for their performance and for allegedly “neglecting” clients.
Benchimol sent an email to brokers in which he was critical of their performance, calling for a ‘back to basics’ approach, but which was rebutted by some recipients.
“I notice that some great leaders have turned into bureaucrats, that commercial teams have turned into political analysts, that the ‘commercial melting pot’ of before the pandemic is now a gloomy graveyard,” Benchimol wrote in the email, to which Bloomberg Línea had access.
“Sometimes I also see advisors conforming and abandoning their clients, who trusted us so much,” Benchimol added in the email.
XP has more than 13,000 autonomous brokers, and whom, a source told Bloomberg Línea, receive emails from Benchimol with updates and newsletters, but that in this particular communiqué the central goal was to offer them some encouragement.
“Without a doubt, the crisis, the high interest rates, the war, inflation, there is no shortage of problems to list, are issues that make the investor’s mood difficult, but when has it ever been easy?” Benchimol wrote in the email. “Look at all the difficulties we have gone through over these 22 years. Complaining has never been the best way to overcome any challenge.”
Benchimol also criticized advisors for being conformist.
“Have they lost the will to keep winning and moving forward? Are we giving it all we can? Currently, the average account opening with investment over 300,000 reais is, unbelievably, 0.3 per advisor per month. To believe that an advisor opens only four accounts a year is unacceptable”, said the founder of XP.
One partner of one of the offices associated to XP refuted Benchimol’s criticism, according to a message seen by Bloomberg Línea.
“I am sad to say that maybe this is not the only problem,” the partner responded to Benchimol, arguing that he had fulfilled what was agreed in terms of attracting clients, return on assets and quality of service, but that “unfortunately, the counterpart did not come onboard”.
“XP as an institution does not have the minimum care for our clients and neither for us, the performance reports are grossly mistaken [...] We live on relationship and credibility, and after years of serving the same clients, today for the first time we are losing credibility and accounts of expressive value, given the constant operational errors,” the partner wrote in the email.
“Before carrying out a superficial analysis of the operation, we should look in-house and reflect on internal customer service,” the partner added.
The partner in question has not responded to Bloomberg Línea’s requests for comment on the message exchange.
Headcount cuts anticipated
Benchimol’s criticism of the firm comes at a time of a sharp slowdown in growth to the lowest pace in years.
Net funding from retail investors fell 11% from October to December compared with the three immediately preceding months, to 29 billion reais ($5.55 billion) - or 9.6 billion reais per month - according to operating preview figures released in January.
In total, XP’s funding also fell 11%, to 31 billion reais ($5.94 billion), versus 35 billion reais in third quarter and 41 billion reais a year earlier.
Those numbers were also below the estimates of market analysts.
The firm’s financial results for Q4 2022, released Thursday, were also below analysts’ estimates. XP had adjusted net income of 893 million reais ($171.1 millon), while the consensus among analysts consulted by Bloomberg was for 1.03 billion reais.
XP saw revenues of 3.34 billion reais ($640.1 million) during the quarter, below analysts’ estimates of 3.62 billion reais.
The firm had announced a conference for Thursday evening, in which it was expected to lay out plans to cut costs, including making layoffs.
XP has already made layoffs in recent months, from analysts to leadership positions, in areas such as marketing, research and technology. But COO Bernardo Amaral’s resignation, as reported by the newspaper O Globo, and who is one of XP’s longest-serving partners, is the latest sign of trouble at the firm.
According to a BTG Pactual (BPAC11) estimate, the total cut in XP’s headcount could be as much as 18% of its staff.
“XP has invested a lot in new verticals, digital accounts, cards, international accounts, its digital asset platform and insurance business,” XP’s CFO Bruno Constantino said during a conference call with investors in November on the occasion of the third-quarter results..
“We have made all these investments and now is the right time to consolidate the investments we have made,” he said.
“We more than doubled our headcount during the pandemic, and now we believe it’s the right time to consolidate everything we’ve invested and look for more efficiency in our business,” he said at the time.
-- This article had the resume updated as Benchimol is the co-founder but not the CEO
-- Update 5:51 pm (02/20/2023): XP reported that partner Bernardo Amaral remains at the company and leads the company’s risk fronts. A previous version of the report said that, according to the newspaper ‘O Globo’, he would have left the position of COO (chief executive of operations). XP clarifies that he was never COO, but CCO (chief client officer).
Translated from the Portuguese by Adam Critchley