Hire Wire Oct 28 2011

Fifth Third's Tuuk Moves to CEO Proving Ground

By julie steinberg

Mary Tuuk, Cincinnati-based Fifth Third Bancorp's chief risk officer and executive vice president, is switching roles to become market president, Western Michigan region, the bank announced yesterday. While the move is lateral, it may help Tuuk rise within the organization as that region has proved fertile ground for spawning the bank's leaders.

Tuuk, 46, was appointed chief risk officer in 2007 after holding several risk and compliance roles. She hasn't yet had profit and loss experience, a responsibility she believes is key to reaching the top ranks of an organization, she told FINS in December.

In her new position, Tuuk will be responsible for various business lines in Western Michigan, including investment advising and retail, commercial and mortgage banking. She said she will move to Grand Rapids, Mich., from the bank's headquarters in Cincinnati to take up the spot in the beginning of January. Tuuk was raised in Grand Rapids and still has family there.

"This next step is absolutely the right step for me," Tuuk said in an interview. "It's a great next step in terms of career paths." Tuuk declined to speculate on whether this opportunity would lead to further advancement. "Development can take a lot of different forms," she said yesterday. "Each move should represent a true opportunity. Sometimes it's a forward-looking move and sometimes it's not."

Asked whether the transfer was her idea or the bank's, Tuuk said the move came about as a result of an "on-going discussion about development for the bank's leaders."

"It's part of a well-orchestrated plan to further promote the development" of the bank's executive leadership, she said. "With the company being in a strong position, I thought this would be a great time to take that opportunity." A spokesperson for Fifth Third declined to comment on whether Tuuk may be being groomed as a potential successor to Chief Executive Kevin Kabat, 54, who has been CEO since 2007, according to the company's filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Experience in the Western Michigan region at Fifth Third has been a proving ground for some of the bank's top leaders. Kabat used to head up that division, as did Michelle Van Dyke, now a regional president who oversees bank affiliates in five divisions.

Women who want to move up in the banking industry are often coached or instructed to get business-line experience, said Heather Landy, editor-in-chief of American Banker Magazine. "It's possible," she said, that Tuuk may be preparing herself for a shot at the CEO job. "Making a lateral move or a taking lower-profile position can give executives an edge if it makes them more well-rounded," Landy said.

An analyst familiar with the company said "it's important for banks to have a management team experienced in several areas of the bank. That's important and a positive."

Tuuk will be replaced as chief risk officer by Paul Reynolds, executive vice president and Chief Administrative Officer.

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