The D&O Diary was on assignment in São Paulo last week, for meetings and for a little bit of a look around. I had never before been to Brazil, or for that matter, to South America. São Paulo turned out to be a bit of a revelation. For one thing, São Paulo, the financial capital of Brazil, is huge; with a population of about 21 million, São Paulo is the world’s 10th largest city. For another thing, in the middle of June when I arrived, São Paulo was entering the Southern Hemisphere winter. My June visit to the city came just before the winter solstice. Many of the stores and shops were having festival de inverno sales while I was visiting.
Because the city is located at 23 degrees southern latitude — by way of comparison, Key West is at 24 degrees northern latitude — São Paulo winter does not involve frigid temperatures. In fact, on the day I arrived it was quite warm and sunny. Unfortunately for me, the sunshine did not last. Though I visited São Paulo during the dry season and in the midst of a record drought, it absolutely poured rain the first full day I was there, and much of the remainder of my visit was cooler and cloudy, as many of my pictures show.
Because São Paulo is so massive, it encompasses a multitude of different districts and neighborhoods. My hotel was located on a leafy, tree-lined street a block away from the Avienda Paulista (pictured right), a 1.7 mile thoroughfare lined with the headquarters of a large number of financial institutions, as well as an extensive shopping area and Latin America’s most comprehensive fine-art museum, Museu de Arte de Sao Paulo (MASP). The street also runs a strikingly philosophical course between two stations on Sao Paulo’s subway, the Metrô, from Paraíso (Paradise) to Consolação (Consolation).
The Metrô itself is quite impressive. It is clean, quiet, easy to use, and inexpensive (at current exchange rates, a single ride costs the equivalent of slightly more than one U.S. dollar). The Metrô can be quite busy at peak times (as shown in the first picture below) but it does make it possible to avoid the city’s congested roads (reflected in the second picture below). The Metrô also makes it possible to easily visit many of the city’s other districts and neighborhoods, including in particular Centro Histórico de São Paulo (or “Centro” for short), which, as the name implies, is the city’s historic center.
The city grew so quickly in the late 20th century that few vestiges of the city’s earlier history remain, and almost all of the city’s most historical buildings are located in the Centro. The photo at the top of the post depicts the Cathedral da Sé, an early 20th neo-Gothic revival structure that is in many ways the city’s heart. (However, given the general tenor of the crowd that inhabits the Praça de Sé in front of the Cathedral, I would suggest that most American tourists might want to allow pictures of the Cathedral to suffice). A warren of pedestrianized streets full of shops and cafes connects the Cathedral to the rest of the Centro.
The next pictures taken in the Centro, respectively, show the Teatro Municipal; the interior of the Mercado Municpal Paulistano; and the Estacão da Luz.
Though densely populated and urban, São Paulo has some magnificent parks. Right near my hotel was the Parque Tenente Siqueira Campos, universally referred to as the Parque Trianon, a little jewel of a park located directly across the street from the MASP. The Park, dense with native Brazilian plants and trees, some of which are said to be over 300 years old, is a reminder of the tropical rain forest that once covered much of the Brazilian coast.
To the south (from my hotel) was another beautiful park, the Parque Ibirapuera , which has the same urban oasis feel as Central Park. At 545 acres, Ibirapuera is one of the largest urban parks in South America, though it is smaller than New York’s 778 acre version. The view across one of the park’s large lakes is shown below. The park is laced with paths and trails.
In addition, there are several smaller (and a little bit more ragged) parks in the city center, including the Parque da Luz (which is pictured first below, and is just across from the Luz rail station pictured above), and the Parque da República, located adjacent to the Centro district.
There are many great reasons to visit Sao Paulo, but possibly the best is the food, which is absolutely phenomenal. I had several great meals while I was there, including in particular a memorable lunch on the day of my arrival, with my São Paulo hosts, Glaucia Smithson (of Zurich) and Marcus Smithson (of Generali), at the Jardineira Grill, a Brazilian barbeque in the Vila Olimpia neighborhood. The restaurant is a churrascaria; waiters move around the restaurant with skewers, slicing various types of grilled meat directly onto each customer’s plate. In the picture below, I am seated at the table and awaiting the first round of grilled meat, with Marcus on the left in the picture and Celso Soares (of Zurich) to my right. (Glaucia, who snapped this shot for us with my camera is, alas, not in this picture. Sorry Glaucia!)
I also had a great dinner with several industry colleagues at the Hotel Unique Skye Bar and Restaurant, the highlight of which was a wonderful dish of Filhote, an Amazon river fish. We toasted our gathering with a Caipirinha — the Brazilian drink made with cachaça (distilled spirits made from sugar cane juice), sugar, and lime — which has to be the best cocktail on the planet. But perhaps the most authentic and memorable meal I enjoyed in Sao Paulo was the bowl of feijoado, a traditional stew of black beans, beef and pork served with rice and cabbage, which I enjoyed for lunch Wednesday afternoon (the dish traditionally is served on Wednesdays and Saturdays for reasons no one could explain to me), as depicted in the picture below (the beans are in the bowl). When I tell you this meal stayed with me, you will I understand I mean that in more than one sense. I didn’t require any dinner that evening.
When I left Ohio to travel to São Paulo, the early summer sunset back home was well after 9 p.m. During my Sao Paulo visit, however, in the Southern Hemisphere early winter, the sun set was before 5:30 p.m. The abrupt shift in daylight hours was quite a shock to my system. My first evening in Sao Paulo, I found myself wandering in the unexpected early evening darkness in the streets near my hotel, feeling adrift and alone in the middle of a huge foreign (and now quite dark) city. Even though it was just after 6, I was about to call it quits and head back to my room when I came upon a street of lively cafes and bars, including one open air sports bar with outdoor seating and huge big screen TVs on the veranda. Purely coincidentally, as I walked up, the Copa America qualifying match between Brazil and Peru had just begun. I made my way into the crowded bar, ordered uma cerveja, and tried to blend into the crowd as they vocally registered every dribble, pass, shot, and goal in the game. (Only my closest family members would truly appreciate how, for me, stumbling upon the bar and the game was about as perfect of a development as could possibly have happened in the entire universe.)
During my visit to São Paulo, I was very self-conscious of my poor command of the Portuguese language. I know only a few phrases, so out of sheer self-defense, I kept my most useful Portuguese phrase at the ready – that is, não falo Português (I don’t speak Portuguese). As I was watching the Copa America game, a young man standing nearby started to speak to me, and more out of instinct than anything else, I quickly said to him, não falo Português. He looked at me sideways and said “Why in the world are you telling me you don’t speak Portuguese? Dude, I just spoke to you in English. I know you are American, you are the most American-looking person who has ever been in this place.” I recovered myself quickly, and introduced myself. It turns out that my new friend Luis had lived in Tampa for many years. He spoke perfect English. I bought him uma cerveja and we had a great conversation during the rest of the game.
As great as it was to become acquainted with São Paulo, the primary purpose of my visit was to attend and to participate as a speaker in the 3rd Encontro Internacional de Linhas Financeiras (International Financial Lines Conference) of Federação Nacional de Seguros Gerais (FenSeg, the Brazilian national insurance association). It was my honor to participate in a panel with Marcus and Celso, to discuss the recent developments in the Brazilian D&O marketplace in the context of historical developments in the U.S. and U.K. D&O markets. It was a lively panel and a fascinating conference. The best part of all was to meet for the first time so many industry colleagues in Brazil and to find out how many of them read The D&O Diary. I have posted more pictures of the event below.
Here is a picture of Marcus, Celso, and me after our session.
Christopher Kramer (Zurich), me, and Victor Trapp (AON)
Christopher Kramer (Zurich), me, and Flavio Sá (AIG):
I wanted to be sure and include this picture (below) of Raquel Canossa da Silveira and Marco Antonio Mendes Miranda, both of AON in São Paulo. They had approached me during the lunch break to tell me how, as relatively new participants in the financial lines insurance market, they have found my blog to be an invaluable training source. Every now and then my energy for blogging starts to flag, but then when I meet some younger people in our industry like Raquel and Marco and they tell me how much they value the blog, I am completely rejuvenated. Isn’t it great that I sit in suburban Cleveland and write my little blog posts, put them out on the Internet, and then somehow my articles wind up getting read literally all over the world? It never ceases to amaze me.
I would like to thank Celso for inviting me to participate in the conference, for Glaucia for helping to make my participation happen in the first place, and to Glaucia and Marcus for being such good hosts during my visit to São Paulo.
More Pictures of São Paulo:
Here is the view looking south from my hotel room. This gives you a sense of how massive and sprawling São Paulo is. But do you see what is wrong with this picture, which was taken around Noon on the day of my departure? It is the sun – it isn’t in the picture. In the Southern Hemisphere, the afternoon sun is in the Northern sky, not (as is the case in the Northern Hemisphere) in the Southern sky. I suffered from massive solar disorientation throughout the visit, or at least I did when the sun was shining.
In a city as populous as São Paulo, even the pedestrianized streets are crowded.
A street fair on Avienda Paulista, near the Parque Trianon, the day I arrived.
Anhangabaú Square, in the Center City
As a final note, I feel I should acknowledge that while this most recent trip did take me below the equator during the Southern Hemisphere winter, I did have get the chance this past February to enjoy late summer in the Southern Hemisphere, in Australia (here) and New Zealand (here).