Fifth Third Bancorp has set in motion its succession plan for Chief Legal Officer Jelena McWilliams, who is the Trump administration's choice for chair of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.

The Cincinnati company on Monday named Susan Zaunbrecher, a longtime corporate attorney, as its senior legal adviser. It intends to name her chief legal officer upon McWilliams' confirmation.

The Senate Banking Committee approved McWilliams’ nomination in February by a vote of 24-1. The full chamber has not yet voted on her nomination.

Susan Zaunbrecher, senior legal adviser at Fifth Third
First step
Fifth Third has hired Susan Zaunbrecher as senior legal adviser and plans to promote her to chief legal officer if the incumbent, Jelena McWilliams, is confirmed as FDIC chair.


Zaunbrecher joins Fifth Third from Dinsmore & Shohl in Cincinnati, where she worked for nearly three decades and mostly recently served as chair of the corporate department. In her new role, she will report directly to Chairman and CEO Greg Carmichael.

“In addition to her extensive background in financial services and regulatory affairs, she understands the power of a positive client experience,” Carmichael said in a press release announcing her appointment. “This makes her a great fit for Fifth Third.”

The likely succession would mark the third changeover in Fifth Third’s legal department in two years.

McWilliams, previously a Senate staffer, was hired as chief legal officer at the $142 billion-asset Fifth Third in January 2017. Months later, in November, she was nominated by President Trump to become chair of the FDIC, to replace Martin Gruenberg.

McWilliams took over the role shortly after Fifth Third made headlines in the summer of 2016 for firing its previous top legal officer, Heather Russell, for what the company described as a conflict of interest. Russell later revealed to The Wall Street Journal that she had been terminated after disclosing a personal relationship with Timothy Mayopoulos, CEO of Fannie Mae.

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Kristin Broughton

Kristin Broughton

Kristin Broughton is a reporter for American Banker, where she writes about the business of national and regional banking.