There has been an unparalleled
migration in the US from north to south in recent years, as
millions of Americans have traded in their snow boots for air
conditioning. You could say that Comerica – for decades the banking
face of Detroit – is simply following its customer base: last year,
the banking titan moved its headquarters from Detroit to Dallas.
Comerica, the 20th-largest US banking group with assets of $60
billion, foresees significant growth over the next three years –
but not in the state of Michigan.

Instead, the group plans to expand
from 402 banking centres today to 512 by 2010, with significant
growth in California, Arizona and Florida.

The industrial US north-east, mired in job losses amid the
steady decay of the US automotive industry, simply offered the bank
little in the way of future growth. Reflecting that decline,
Comerica had little choice but to seek growth elsewhere. During the
coming three-year period, Michigan will fall from making up 60
percent of Comerica’s business to 46 percent.

At the end of 2006, Michigan and the Midwest market still provided
about half of all Comerica’s outstanding loans. But the Sunbelt
region is clearly where the population growth is headed – a region
that also attracted Spain’s BBVA to buy local player Compass
Bancshares (see RBI 583). According to US Census Bureau
projections, two-thirds of all Americans will live in the southern
and western US by 2030, with 30 percent in just three states –
California, Florida and Texas.

Based on data from the International Monetary Fund, Texas is the
tenth-largest economy in the world. It has a gross state product of
nearly $1 trillion and one of the highest population growth rates
in the country.

The loss of Comerica’s headquarters continues a long process of
Michigan’s diminishing importance in the banking world. Since the
1990s, several once-important banking names have disappeared,
including NBD (now part of New York-based JPMorgan Chase) and
Standard Federal Bank, part of Chicago-based LaSalle Bank, which
itself was recently bought by Bank of America.

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By 2010, Comerica expects more than half its banking centres to be
located in growth areas outside of Michigan, and that begins in
Texas, where Comerica instantly became the state’s largest player.
And the group has moved very quickly to cement its name on the
Texan landscape: Comerica Bank has become the title sponsorship of
this year’s Dallas New Year’s Parade, an initiative announced on 20
November at the city’s new Comerica Bank Tower.

“Comerica Bank is proud to call Dallas home, and there’s no better
way to celebrate our new headquarters than with a parade through
the streets of downtown Dallas,” proclaim Ralph Babb, chairman and
CEO of Comerica, at the ceremony.

In its third-quarter results, Comerica reported that compared with
the first nine months of 2006, average loan growth was 7 percent,
with 15 percent growth in the Texas market, 13 percent in the
western market, 12 percent in the Florida market and just 1 percent
in the Midwest market. Overall, total revenue increased 5 percent.
“We had strong loan growth in our high-growth markets, particularly
Texas,” said Babb, talking about the bank’s third-quarter results.
“Despite a challenging external environment, we continued to
advance our strategy to diversify our customer base and extend our
reach in our high-growth markets, including the relocation of our
corporate headquarters to Dallas.”

Making the move official, Comerica has applied for a Texas state
charter in a move that would transfer regulatory responsibility
from Michigan to Texas. It said earlier this year that it had
applied to change its Michigan charter for a national one, but
withdrew that application in favour of applying for a Texas one,
saying a Texas charter will make it stand out amid the out-of-town
giants it expects to compete with in this hotly contested

Charles Davis