CIBC’s Williamson Said Planning to Stay After CEO Contest

David Williamson, Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce’s retail-banking head, will remain at the lender after being passed over for the chief executive officer’s job, a person with knowledge of the succession process said.

CIBC, whose previous leadership contests sparked executive departures, yesterday named wealth-management head Victor Dodig, 49, to succeed Gerald McCaughey as CEO of the Toronto-based bank. Williamson, who’s been group head of retail and business banking for three years, has Dodig’s support and plans to stay, said the person, who asked not to be identified because the matter isn’t public.

Williamson, during a conference call with senior managers yesterday, said he remained committed to continuing a turnaround of CIBC’s retail-banking business, the person said. Both candidates for the top job get along well, the person said, and Dodig is complimentary of Williamson’s efforts.

Kevin Dove, a CIBC spokesman, said the bank didn’t have an immediate comment. A telephone message left with Williamson wasn’t immediately returned.

Such an outcome would be a departure from past succession battles at Canada’s fifth-largest bank. When Al Flood became CEO in 1992, his main rival, Paul Cantor, departed. The race to replace Flood in 1999 pitted investment-banking head John Hunkin against Holger Kluge from the retail-banking side. Hunkin won and Kluge left.

As McCaughey rose to president and chief operating officer, management shakeups resulted in departures including consumer-banking head Jill Denham. McCaughey became CEO in August 2005.

The retail and business-banking business run by Williamson accounted for 71 percent of CIBC’s profit in the fiscal year ended Oct. 31, according to financial statements. The unit, which oversees 1,123 branches and 22,306 employees, is CIBC’s largest operation.

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