Comerica Inc. is looking to fill two senior management posts, according to people familiar with the search.
The $66 billion-asset company has hired the Chicago executive recruitment firm Spencer Stuart to vet candidates to succeed Dennis Mooradian, who heads wealth and institutional management, according to these sources. Mr. Mooradian, 60, is interested in retiring by yearend, they said.
Comerica, which is based in Dallas, also is looking for a new head of business banking, said the sources. They said it was unclear whether Joseph Buttigieg 3rd, a vice chairman who oversees business banking, would move to another role or retire.
Mr. Buttigieg, 62, a Comerica veteran, is eligible under the company's bylaws, which let executives retire early if they are 55 or older and have 10 years of service. Comerica's normal retirement age is 65.
Both men are members of Comerica's 14-member management policy committee.
A Comerica spokesman said the company does not comment on "hypothetical situations," and calls to Mr. Mooradian and Mr. Buttigieg were not immediately returned. A representative in Spencer Stuart's Dallas office said it does not comment on specific searches.
Sean Ryan, an analyst at Sterne, Agee & Leach Inc., said a shake-up in senior management could draw attention to succession issues at Comerica. Ralph Babb Jr., the company's chairman and chief executive, is 59 and has not made public any succession plan, said Mr. Ryan.
"In a more normal environment, these developments would spur a fairly steady flow of takeover speculation," he said in an interview Wednesday. "That kind of talk clearly wouldn't be as prevalent in this type of environment."
Jeff Davis, an analyst at First Horizon National Corp.'s FTN Midwest Securities Corp., said that Mr. Buttigieg and Mr. Babb's careers had followed a similar path for some years. Both became vice chairmen in March 1999 as Mr. Buttigieg continued to run a business line and Mr. Babb remained Comerica's chief financial officer. However, this changed when Mr. Babb was named president and chief executive in January 2002, and chairman nine months later.
Mr. Mooradian joined Comerica in November 2003 from Wells Fargo & Co., where he was the head of the San Francisco banking company's private-client services group and chairman and co-CEO of Wells Fargo Investments LLC.
At Comerica he also was the chairman and chief executive of Munder Capital Management, an asset management subsidiary divested early last year. After that move, he retained responsibility for wealth planning, private banking, trust services, and investments.
Comerica's banking operations have grown steadily since the end of 1999, when it was a $39 billion-asset company based in Detroit. Since then, total loans have increased 60%, to $52.4 billion at June 30, and deposits are up 82%, to $42.3 billion. Meanwhile, Comerica relocated its corporate headquarters to Dallas in August 2007, after determining that the Midwest no longer accounted for most of its income. Comerica's business bank includes middle-market lending, commercial real estate, and national dealer services. It is Comerica's biggest bottom-line contributor, accounting for 72% of earnings, or $118 million, at midyear, despite a 59% decline in profit from a year earlier. Given Comerica's home builder exposure in California and Michigan, credit deterioration has been an issue. The unit's loan-loss provision through June 30 was six times bigger than a year earlier, at $269 million. Net chargeoffs were up fivefold, to $196 million.
Wealth management contributed 21% of earnings at midyear, or $34 million, though this result was off 8% from a year earlier.
Sterne Agee's Mr. Ryan said earnings issues may not be the main reason for either executive's potential departure, though "they might be thinking that the next year isn't going to be very much fun since it will likely involve triaging rather than growth and profitability." He said it might benefit Comerica to promote or hire managers with new perspectives in areas such as expense management and risk coverage. "Those types of things could separate the winners from the losers in this environment," he said.