Banking: Paradise Is a Company Town

Colorful birds flit around in spacious aviaries. An open-air zoo has monkeys, emus and a lioness with her cubs. Fra grant flowers line the streets. This is the "City of God," eleven miles from Sao Paulo in Brazil. With a school, a hospital and all other things for the material needs of its 1,200-odd inhabitants, it is the headquarters community built by Brazil's liveliest and fastest-growing bank: Banco Brasileiro de Descontos, or Bradesco as it is commonly known.

Beneath its blandly bucolic skin, Bradesco hides tough sinews. South America's most elaborate computer...

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