The Safra family moved to Brazil in 1952. In 1955, Joseph's 23-year-old brother, Edmond Safra, and his Father, Jacob Safra, started working in Brazil by financing assets in São Paulo. But soon, Edmond Safra separated from his brothers Joseph and Moise and headed to New York where he founded the Republic National Bank of New York (which he later sold to HSBC in 1999 and donated most of his money to the Edmond Safra Foundation). Joseph Safra founded Banco Safra in 1955 and today it is reportedly the 6th largest private bank in Brazil. He remains the chairman of the Safra Group offering banking services throughout Europe, North and South America.
In 2013, Joseph Safra's family acquired more than a dozen properties in the U.S., primarily in New York City. They also own a portfolio of commercial real estate in Brazil. In 2014 Safra paid more than £700 million to buy The Gherkin – one of the most distinctive towers in the City of London.