Through the Civil War, world wars, the Great Depression, the economic and political turbulence of the 20th century, the Great Recession and now over two decades into the 21st century, Comerica Bank stands as a beacon of strength in the communities which we serve.
This beacon first shined bright in Detroit 174 years ago and its reach now spans across the country with markets in Arizona, California, Florida, Michigan and Texas.
Comerica, originally called Detroit Savings Fund Institute, opened its doors on August 17, 1849, to a city bustling with shipyards, river trade, sawmills, horse drawn carriages and dirt roads. It had six customers that day, with receipts totaling $41. Within two years, the patronage increased to more than 300 with the tally at $25,000.
Unlike most banks of that time, the Institute paid interest on deposits, had no shareholders or capital stock, and was managed by unpaid fiduciaries. Courting customers from the working class, merchants and even children, the Institute enjoyed steady growth, reaching the $1 million mark in 1870.
The next 30 years brought about many changes for the company including a new name, Detroit Savings Bank, and deposits in excess of an incredible $6 million.
At the turn of the century, Detroit experienced a boom when it became birthplace of the automobile industry. Supporting its meteoric rise, Detroit Savings Bank flourished for the next two decades before facing that fateful day in October 1929 -- the stock market crash.
Devastation of the stock market meant shortage of capital, which for Detroit translated into lack of auto sales and ultimately layoffs. Dwindling deposits, shrinking savings accounts and loan defaults sent the banking industry into crisis, but Detroit Savings Bank held on. In 1933 it reveled in a rare influx of cash deposits and new customers.
With renewed confidence and increased clientele, the Bank's board members decided to help Detroit regain its financial foothold and became the first area bank to offer Federal Housing Administration mortgages, in addition to aggressively pursuing commercial accounts.
World War II
A new name, The Detroit Bank, more branches and the opportunity to preserve and expand commercial accounts saw a favorable end to the frenzied 1930s, but a new crisis was just around the corner. As World War II erupted, the Bank saw more than 100 of its valued employees go off to war. With the mostly male teller corps leaving to assist the war effort, women took the opportunity to join the bank and fill vacant positions.
One employee who made a tremendous difference during the war was bank president Joseph M. Dodge. Dodge negotiated Air Force contracts, headed the Pentagon War Contract Board and worked with both German and Japanese governments after the war to aid in their economic restoration. He was granted the highest civilian war award, the Medal of Merit, and was even honored by the Japanese emperor.
Consolidation Forms Detroit Bank & Trust
As Detroit shifted into the exhilarating 1950s mode of poodle skirts, sock hops, television and rock music, The Detroit Bank experienced its own coming of age. Taking a gigantic step forward it merged with the Birmingham National Bank, Ferndale National Bank and the Detroit Wabeek Bank & Trust Company in 1956, forming Detroit Bank & Trust.
What had started out more than a 100 years earlier with a mere $41 emerged from the age of innocence and entered the chaotic 1960s with assets well over one billion dollars. People were on the move both personally and professionally, and the Bank helped them improve their homes, autos and educations. To keep up with the times, the Bank installed its first computer to help in processing checks and record keeping.
Longer work hours meant less time to visit banks, so Detroit Bank & Trust introduced their first automated teller machine (ATM) in metro Detroit's branches in 1972. Better electronics, designer fashions and trendy vacations had customers clamoring for ways to make their dollars stretch, so the Bank introduced the Master Charge card in the early 70s. Bank regulation modifications in 1973 necessitated restructuring to a holding company, and the DETROITBANK Corporation was created.
Comerica Name, New Markets
One more name change in the early 1980s and Comerica Incorporated was established. The new name reflected the national scope of Comerica’s products and services and its desire for expansion to new markets.
As its senior customers retired or wintered in Florida, Comerica packed some of its bags and headed south in 1982 to establish branch offices. With the economic growth of America, Comerica headed for the wide-open spaces of Texas in 1988 and continued west to California in the early 1990s.
Racing toward the millennium, Comerica experienced extraordinary change. This began in 1992, when Comerica merged with in-market rival Manufacturers National Corporation. As Comerica carved a niche for itself in Detroit through the years, Manufacturers proved a worthy competitor. Both banks were nearly equal in assets and employees and had enjoyed great success. However, the banks’ CEOs recognized the emerging era of rapid consolidation in banking and their own vulnerability to takeovers. The merger of equals between Comerica and Manufacturers was a major achievement.
With the merger, the Comerica name remained, inserted into the familiar blue trapezoid of Manufacturers to form a new logo for a new Comerica. Manufacturers' chairman and CEO Gerald V. MacDonald became the combined company's first CEO. With the merger, Comerica became the country's 25th largest bank holding company, with assets in excess of $20 billion.
In 1993 Eugene Miller succeeded MacDonald as chairman and chief executive of Comerica. Miller, who joined the company in 1955, possessed the vision and drive to take the company to a higher level. He launched a review and reengineering project that streamlined bureaucracy, dropped businesses or products that were unprofitable, strengthened the company's top-performing lines and took Comerica into the Canadian and Mexican markets. While redesigning the company, Miller never lost sight of the needs of the customer.
In 2001, it was announced that Vice Chairman Ralph W. Babb Jr. would succeed Miller as president and chief executive officer. Babb, who was Comerica's chief financial officer, assumed the duties and responsibilities of president and chief executive officer on January 1, 2002. Miller remained chairman until his retirement at the end of September 2002, at which time he was succeeded in that role by Babb. Babb also joined the Board of Directors.
In late 2004, Babb and Comerica began an aggressive plan to diversify its operations by opening new banking centers in strong growth markets, primarily in Texas and the Western Market, which includes California and Arizona. Comerica opened 18 new banking centers in 2005 and 25 new banking centers in 2006.
In March 2007, Comerica Incorporated announced plans to relocate its corporate headquarters to Dallas, Texas. The relocation to Texas, where Comerica already had a major presence, positioned the Company in a more central location with greater accessibility to all of its markets. Comerica maintained its significant presence in Detroit, remaining one of Southeast Michigan’s largest employers. Over the previous five years, Comerica had been advancing its strategy to diversify its customer base and extend its reach into key high-growth markets. A significant percentage of Comerica’s earnings in 2007 was generated in the Texas, Arizona, California and Florida markets. Moving the corporate headquarters to Dallas gave Comerica greater proximity to all of its markets, and the additional resources in these markets was expected to lead to accelerated growth for Comerica.
In August 2007, Comerica announced the location of its new corporate headquarters at 1717 Main Street in downtown Dallas. Designed by Philip Johnson and John Burgee, architects, the building at 1717 Main is a dynamic part of the Dallas skyline. At 787 feet tall, it is the third largest skyscraper in Dallas and the sixth tallest building in Texas. The building was renamed Comerica Bank Tower. Comerica leased the first five floors of the distinctive granite and glass building, which has a Comerica banking center on the first floor. The Class AA building serves as a hub for the underground pedestrian walkway system that connects retail shops, restaurants and other area buildings.
In 2009, Comerica Bank dedicated its first Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)-certified facility, the Fossil Creek Banking Center, in Fort Worth, Texas. LEED is the U.S. Green Building Council's official rating system for designing and constructing the world's greenest, most energy-efficient and high-performing buildings.The LEED certification of Comerica's Fossil Creek Banking Center was based on a number of green design and construction features including:
Environmentally friendly concrete instead of asphalt to reduce heat absorption
An on-site recycling center for use by customers and employees
High efficiency plumbing fixtures and a special drip irrigation system designed to decrease landscape watering needs by 50 percent
Use of special paints, sealants,and carpeting to promote an environmentally friendly and healthy workplace
Special roof material and design, continuous building insulation and high-performance glass to decrease electricity use and greenhouse gas emissions
In 2011, Comerica acquired Houston, Texas-based Sterling Bancshares, Inc., strengthening its franchise in the Lone Star State. The acquisition virtually tripled Comerica's market share in Houston, provided it entry into the attractive San Antonio and Kerrville regions, and complemented its banking center network in Dallas/Fort Worth, while adding about $5 billion in assets, $2 billion in loans and $4 billion in deposits on the closing date of July 28, 2011. Later in 2011, Comerica successfully completed systems conversions so that former Sterling customers can bank at any Comerica banking center and have full access to Comerica's full line of products and services.
From 2012 through 2015, Comerica demonstrated its endurance in a challenging economic cycle by continuing to focus on its relationship-banking strategy. In 2015, average loans topped $48 billion, and average deposits grew to a record $58 billion. Through its equity repurchase program and dividends, Comerica returned $389 million, or 73 percent of 2015 net income, to shareholders in 2015. All the while, Comerica has been navigating its way through a modestly growing U.S. economy, as well as increased regulatory and technology demands.
Comerica has continued to demonstrate its commitment to the communities it serves through our strong culture of diversity and inclusion, community involvement and environmental commitment. Comerica has been recognized as one of the most community-minded companies in the nation by Points of Light, named to Newsweek’s list of America’s Most Responsible Companies and recognized by DiversityInc® as a Noteworthy Company.
Comerica ushered in a historic milestone in 2019 with the celebration of its 170th anniversary. Comerica’s longevity has earned it the distinction as Michigan’s longest serving bank. It was only fitting that Comerica’s 170th anniversary mark the final year for Babb. Babb, who played a pivotal role in Comerica’s success, announced his retirement at the end of 2019 and named Curtis C. Farmer chairman, president and CEO.
In 2020, the global COVID-19 pandemic presented unparalleled challenges, but those challenges were met with Comerica’s unwavering commitment to raising expectations. Comerica proudly supported its customers, communities and colleagues as we navigated the unprecedented environment together. Comerica and the Comerica Charitable Foundation provided $27 million in COVID-19 relief to support community service organizations and businesses. Comerica colleagues also worked tirelessly to process more than 14,700 Paycheck Protection Program applications, resulting in $3.9 billion in critical funding to small and medium-sized businesses.
In addition, towards the end of the year, Comerica launched its new Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) Platform, highlighting the bank’s five key ESG commitments, focal points for what Comerica believes are the most impactful ESG issues for the bank, customers and colleagues and areas in which it feels it can make a meaningful difference.
In 2021, Comerica expanded its presence in North Carolina with the creation of a new Southeast Market. It established three commercial banking and wealth management offices, in Winston-Salem, Charlotte and Raleigh, which will serve to leverage future growth across the Southeast. It also launched gomerica, a mobile bank helping to bring its business directly to local communities and help fill the void in underserved neighborhoods that often struggle to obtain easy access to banking services.
Comerica also established a new Office of Corporate Responsibility in 2021, bringing key environmental, social and governance elements from across the organization together under one leader and underscoring the bank’s dedication to protecting and preserving the environment; diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI); and serving and strengthening our communities.
The success Comerica has shared for 174 years is a testament to its strong relationship focus, conservative principles, and dedicated workforce – the more than 7,400 colleagues who serve as Comerica’s ambassadors in the community.