Fifth Third Bancorp has given CEO Greg Carmichael the additional title of chairman, combining the two roles for the first time since it split them apart during the financial crisis.

Carmichael succeeds Marsha Williams, who has moved into the role of lead independent director of the Cincinnati bank. The change takes effect immediately.

The combination of the chairman and CEO roles is a notable reversal at a company that, against industry norms, had kept them separate for the better part of a decade. Fifth Third stripped CEO Kevin Kabat of his chairman title in May 2010 as the company was taking a hit on bad loans during the financial crisis; Kabat was named vice chairman two years later.

Fifth Third CEO Greg Carmichael.
“This promotion recognizes Greg’s contributions and the board’s confidence in his ability to guide our organization,” says Marsha Williams, who moves from chairman to lead independent director to make way for Carmichael at the head of the board.

Many corporate governance experts have argued that more banks and other public companies should put the chairman and CEO roles in different hands to promote the independence of boards of directors. Wells Fargo split the jobs in late 2016 after its fake-accounts scandal forced CEO John Stumpf to resign, and the decision prompted calls for other banks to adopt the same policy.

“This promotion recognizes Greg’s contributions and the board’s confidence in his ability to guide our organization,” Williams said in a press release issued late Thursday by Fifth Third. Williams joined the board in 2008. She retired two years later as chief financial officer at Orbitz.

Fifth Third's release pointed to steps Carmichael has taken to improve profitability and improve technology since taking over as CEO in November 2015. The $142 billion-asset company also noted that it recently received a top score on its Community Reinvestment Act exam after receiving a “needs to improve” rating in July 2016.

Return on average assets was 1.43% as of Dec. 31, or 32 basis points higher than a year earlier. Return on tangible common equity was 15.2%.

Notably, until this year, Fifth Third was the largest publicly traded bank with a female board chair. Wells Fargo now holds that distinction after Elizabeth Duke took over as chairman on Jan. 1.

Subscribe Now

Access to authoritative analysis and perspective and our data-driven report series.

14-Day Free Trial

No credit card required. Complete access to articles, breaking news and industry data.