Social Activist-Turned-Chief Executive: Leader Showing True Commitment to Worthy Causes — and to Brazil’s People

CAIXA’s Maria Rita Serrano understands challenge and inequality, and strives to overcome both.

Brazil is currently facing major political and economic challenges — and CAIXA has the tools to tackle those issues.

CEO: Maria Rita Serrano

CEO: Maria Rita Serrano

At the head of the bank is CEO Maria Rita Serrano, whose career has been marked by challenges met, and overcome. Reinstating CAIXA as a fundamental axis for the country’s sustainable development is her life’s mission.

“I had the honour and joy, after 33 years of a career ardently defending CAIXA, of being invited to chair it,” she explains. “I come from a humble and hard-working family, I am a woman, a social and union activist, and I was the elected representative of the bank’s employees in its board.

“It is not the common trajectory of a CEO of a financial institution in Brazil. But this bold choice by President Lula (Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva) fills me with hope of working to improve the lives of Brazilians.”

CAIXA is a vital national institution, especially in its role of managing public policies for the federal government. With 162 years behind it, the bank was born stirring the dreams of ordinary Brazilians. It was in CAIXA that enslaved people could deposit savings to buy their writ of emancipation.

Serrano knows this story in all its depth and nuance, and one of her goals is to keep CAIXA on this path by keeping it a state-owned company focused on socio-economic development.

“During the pandemic, CAIXA employees served half of the Brazilian population,” she says. “CAIXA is a company that excels. This is the bank that has resisted the dismantling of public assets in recent years … and it resisted thanks to the effort and commitment of its employees.”

During the military dictatorship, Maria Rita Serrano became an activist for social causes. Back in 1982, her concern was for unemployment, inequality, lack of opportunity, and the misery of a large part of the Brazilian population. Serrano, a trade unionist and the first president of the Bank Workers’ Union in the region known as ABC Paulista, joined CAIXA in 1989. She faced discrimination and understood the need for change in decision-making spaces. In Brazil, only 12 percent of board positions are held by women.

In 2016, she ran as employee representative to the CAIXA board of directors; she was elected and invested in 2017. In 2019, she was re-elected with 82 percent of the votes. In 2002, she was voted in for a third term — this time with a 91 percent majority.

Serrano has published several books. In 2018, she launched Caixa, Banco dos Brasileiros, which recounts the centennial history of the bank. Recently, she published Rompendo Barreiras, on her life trajectory and activism in defence of public assets, and the challenges for women in positions of power.

Born in Santo André, São Paulo, Maria Rita Serrano graduated in Social Studies and History, with a Master’s degree in Business Administration from the University of São Caetano do Sul (USCS).

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