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Lisa Valentine
Lisa Valentine
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Comerica EVP and CIO John Beran Balances IT and Operations

A philosophy of empowering employees with responsibility in an effort to build competencies has helped to make Comerica one of the "Best Places to Work in IT."

BS&T: Has the industry done a good job integrating payments channels?

Beran: No. I've been an advocate for a decade for integrating our various delivery channels. For example, we've created a siloed ACH delivery mechanism and an infrastructure around that delivery channel. But at the end of the day, it's all clearing and settlement of transactions.

The good news is that integration is getting some traction in the industry, and many banks are beginning to look at payments on an enterprisewide basis as opposed to looking at just wire transfer or ACH or lockbox. They are starting to make decisions about how each channel is structured and organized on a holistic basis.

BS&T: Describe Comerica's 2007 move to Dallas.

Beran: Only our corporate headquarters has moved to Texas [from Detroit]; operations and IT are still in Michigan, with no plans to move. But the location of our headquarters doesn't impact how we execute our operations and technology. We will continue to make decisions about what to locate where based on the needs of customers and our businesses.

We are highly centralized and are able to support the company both nationally and internationally primarily through our southeast Michigan data center. We do have operations in other markets -- such as Texas, California and Florida -- because some of our operations need to be located close to a particular market.

BS&T: What were some of the challenges of the move?

Beran: We had two types of challenges. First, we needed to show a physical presence in the Texas market as quickly as possible, so we had to create temporary office spaces with temporary technology until we could move into our new headquarters. At the same time, we were changing our network technology from traditional voice and systems network architecture to IP telephony. That has posed some challenges for us since it's a new way for our users to interface with technology.

BS&T: What will drive growth for Comerica this year?

Beran: We're expanding our market through new banking centers. Most of our expansion is taking place in Texas, Florida, Arizona and California. Our three businesses [commercial, retail, and wealth and asset management] have to participate in the profitability of each branch. Therefore, we are selective in locating branches and typically don't install a mass-market branch.

We also have a very focused payments strategy designed to grow deposits. Part of our strategy is to capture high-deposit, high-transacting business segments. We have a great opportunity to take advantage of our electronic capabilities and grow our commercial and correspondent business without having to be within clients' physical market.

BS&T: What is your greatest career challenge?

Beran: Translating what we do in operations and technology into business terms for management -- especially around infrastructure and telecommunications -- is one of my greatest challenges. We spend a lot of time translating the technology investments we need to make into business terms to gain the support of the business.

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