Fifth Third promotes Tim Spence to president. Is he next CEO?

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Fifth Third Bancorp in Cincinnati has elevated Tim Spence to president, potentially lining him up as an eventual CEO candidate.

Most recently head of consumer banking, payments and strategies, Spence will now handle all business lines and regional banking as well as continue to oversee strategy for the $202 billion-asset Fifth Third. He will continue to report to Chairman and CEO Greg Carmichael, who previously held the title of president.

“Over the past several years, he has been a principal architect and catalyst of many of the company’s most important strategic initiatives,” Carmichael said in a Monday press release. “Those initiatives include organic growth investments, numerous partnerships with fintechs and other third parties, and the 2019 acquisition of MB Financial.”

Tim Spence, president of Fifth Third
Tim Spence (pictured), 41, "has been a principal architect and catalyst of many of the company’s most important strategic initiatives,” including fintech partnerships, Fifh Third CEO Greg Carmichael said in naming Spence president.

Spence was named American Banker’s 2018 Digital Banker of the Year largely because of his role in leading Fifth Third’s digital transformation.

Monday’s announcement also sets up Spence, 41, as a possible successor to Carmichael, 58. Scott Siefers, an analyst at Piper Sandler, said he expects Carmichael to remain CEO for a few more years and that this could set up a multiyear transition period.

Carmichael, like Spence, has a tech-focused background, Siefers noted. Before he joined Fifth Third in 2003, Carmichael was chief information officer at the tech and energy firm Emerson Electric.

“It’s sort of appropriate he’d be geared toward someone with similar acumen in his own search,” Siefers said of the current CEO.

A Fifth Third spokeswoman declined to comment about the succession speculation.

Spence joined Fifth Third in 2015 as chief strategy officer and became head of consumer banking and payments in 2017. Prior to joining Fifth Third, he was a senior partner in the financial services practice at the consulting firm Oliver Wyman.

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