Wealthy Brazilians looking to escape recession, corruption scandals and political upheaval have long made Miami their destination of choice. Now some of the nation’s biggest banks are seeing the allure as well.

Itau Unibanco Holding SA, the Sao Paulo-based firm that’s the top sponsor of the Miami Open tennis tournament, is targeting $12 billion in assets under management there by December, a 9 percent increase. Grupo BTG Pactual, also based in Sao Paulo, is opening an asset-management unit in the South Florida city, and Rio de Janeiro’s XP Investimentos CCTVM SA, the broker dealer that created a Miami office last year, is adding employees.

“Every week I get a call from a Brazilian trying to find a way to live in Miami,” Carlos Gribel, head of Latin American fixed income at Andbanc Brokerage, said in an interview in Sao Paulo last month. “In Brazil, wealthy people need bullet-proof cars and security guards. In Miami, they can live and spend their vacations freely, showing off their boats, fancy cars and houses.”

They’ll need money managers nearby, the thinking goes.

Itau, which has expanded its broker-dealer and wealth- management team in Miami about 15 percent during the past three years, to 160 people, is hiring five more in 2015, according to Frances Sevilla-Sacasa, head of the unit. XP has about 20 employees there and plans to add an additional five this year, according to Bernardo Amaral, a partner at the firm. BTG declined to comment on its Miami operations.

Brazilian banks expanding in Florida are finding the pathway cleared by international competitors scaling back.

RBC, Barclays

Royal Bank of Canada decided to close its Latin America private bank, including the business in Miami, starting in 2013 because low interest rates and rising costs kept it from meeting performance targets, said Claire Holland, a spokeswoman for the Toronto-based bank. Barclays Plc, based in London, shut its Miami private bank as part of its strategy to focus on 70 other markets, Kerrie Cohen, a spokeswoman, said in an e-mailed statement. BNP Paribas SA, France’s largest bank, said last year it would sell its private-banking unit in Miami.

“Banks with sub-scale operations in Miami find it more difficult to have sustainable long-term businesses,” Sevilla- Sacasa said in an interview. Itau’s assets under management have tripled since she started there three years ago, she said.

XP Hiring

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