Comerica Inc. has merged its two fiduciary services units into a single division and plans to expand its nationwide operation.

Robert Sajdak, who was promoted to the group business manager of the new private fiduciary services group at the beginning of this month, said the Dallas company wants to expand the group both within and beyond the parent's traditional scope.

"Comerica is certainly looking at this new group as an opportunity to create a national fiduciary services network," he said in an interview last week.

The group has offices in Comerica's traditional markets of Michigan, Florida, Texas, and California, but it also has 26 offices in markets such as Memphis, Minneapolis, Denver, Phoenix, New York, and North Carolina.

"We are looking to be in any and every major metropolitan area," said Mr. Sajdak, who has worked for Comerica for 30 years. "We are adding staff in New York City and Phoenix and continue to look around the country for other opportunities. We want to add staff and offices where we see opportunities to grow."

The group, which is based in Detroit, was created when Comerica combined its personal trust and strategic trust alliances businesses. The strategic trust business, launched 13 years ago, services broker-dealers, including UBS AG, Citigroup Inc.'s Smith Barney, and Royal Bank of Canada's RBC Dain Rauscher.

Mr. Sajdak had been the group business manager of the strategic trust business before his promotion. Peter Ronan, who ran the personal trust business, retired at the end of last month.

The strategic trust business has grown substantially in the past five years, Mr. Sajdak said, and Comerica wants to use its knowledge in that business and apply it to its more traditional trust lines.

"We want to run these businesses more efficiently and grow them," he said. "There are some duplications, there are some synergies, and we will be putting some of the back-office capabilities together. But we are going to maintain two channels with two separate business models. We put these two businesses together to take advantage of the synergies."

The strategic trust group has offices in most of the largest metropolitan areas, Mr. Sajdak said, but he wants to add more in the Boston and Seattle markets. "We have a presence in both markets, but neither is very large right now."

By aligning with external broker-dealers, the business has grown beyond Comerica's retail network, Mr. Sajdak said. "We have made a smooth transition in markets where Comerica doesn't have [bank] branches," he said. "We really think we have some opportunities to grow from our existing external offices and from offices that we may open in the future."

The two groups that were combined increased their assets under custody 25% from a year earlier, to $18 billion, with $15 billion from the traditional personal trust business and $3 billion from its strategic trust business.

Mr. Sajdak said despite difficult market conditions, the time is right to expand the business because financial services firms want to outsource these services.

The recent stock turmoil will not affect the growth plans, he said. "Everyone is interested in retaining clients, and that can be difficult to do unless you have national trust capabilities. Financial services firms need to find a firm like ours to support them."

Mr. Sajdak said it will be difficult for Comerica's private fiduciary services group to maintain its annual growth rate. "We are always looking to grow. I don't think we'll see 25% again anytime soon, but what we will see is an opportunity for more growth. I would like for us to be able to maintain that double-digit pace."

Mr. Sajdak conceded that this is not an easy business. However, Comerica "has some proprietary methods to build from," he said. "We have been at this for a long time, and I think we can continue to grow from here."

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