In a sign of its increasing emphasis on the retail market, Comerica Inc. of Detroit has hired a chief technologist steeped in the electronic delivery of consumer banking services.
The executive, John R. Beran, had been president of the subsidiary of Electronic Payment Services Inc. that operates the MAC system, one of the nation's largest automated teller machine and point of sale networks.
"Comerica has traditionally been a successful bank specializing a lot in the commercial side," said Mr. Beran, who will be executive vice president and chief information officer at the $34 billion-asset bank holding company. "I believe that, in addition to the successes they've had on the corporate side, they wish to be a little bit stronger on the retail side."
"One of the key focuses, obviously, is going to be delivery systems," he added.
Mr. Beran brings more than 15 years' experience in information systems management, marketing, and electronic banking.
Nominally, he is replacing Robert Condon at the helm of Comerica's technology unit, which it calls the services company. But the scope of the job has grown significantly since Mr. Condon retired last summer, and Mr. Beran will be the first at Comerica to hold the title "chief information officer."
He will report to Michael T. Monahan, president of Comerica Inc. and Comerica Bank.
"As chief information officer, John will provide direction for the development and utilization of information technology at Comerica and establish priorities for technology initiatives aimed at supporting line- of-business objectives and optimizing efficiency," Mr. Monahan said.
While president of MAC, or Money Access Service Inc., Mr. Beran witnessed the trials of mergers, acquisitions, and related computer conversions. MAC's parent, Electronic Payment Services, Wilmington, Del., was formed almost three years ago. It is owned by five superregional banks that pooled their network resources while sharing access with many other participants.
Mr. Beran's consolidation experiences are unlikely to be put to immediate use at Comerica. The company recently completed more than 85 system conversions from its merger with Manufacturers National Corp.
But the executive's check-processing background will come into play quickly. Comerica is considered a leader in the field, having installed an innovative system that turns paper checks into easily processed digital images. The company is now working to get the most from its multimillion- dollar investment in imaging technology, observers said.
Mr. Beran, who ran check operations at a Dayton, Ohio, bank early in his career, has little experience with check-image technology. But he said he is "very familiar with the concepts of check processing and all the time frames and pressures of getting things out. The issue here is a change in technology."
Also in the short term, he will be expected to lead the charge into new retail banking technologies. Comerica executives did not elaborate on specific initiatives, but observers said home banking projects would be high on Mr. Beran's list of things to do.
Bill Bradway, a technology analyst at the Tower Group in Wellesley, Mass., said Comerica's affiliates in Texas and California would be likely testing grounds for alternative delivery channels.
"They don't have the scale there that they do in the Midwest, which may call for alternative strategies," he said.
In a sign of Comerica's desire to experiment in home banking, its lead bank in Detroit participates in MasterCard International's Master Banking program, while Comerica Bank-Texas was one of the first to sign with Interactive Transaction Partners, a joint venture of Electronic Data Systems Corp., France Telecom, and U S West.
Mr. Beran is on the board of MasterCard's Maestro debit card program and is a former director of Visa's ATM affiliate, Plus System Inc.