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CIBC says Laura Dottori-Attanasio, senior executive vice-president and group head for Canadian personal and business banking, is retiring.Evan Buhler/The Canadian Press

Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce’s CM-T head of personal and business banking is leaving the lender to take the top job at another company, according to a source, removing a potential CEO candidate from CIBC’s succession plans.

Laura Dottori-Attanasio is departing from the bank on Feb. 1 after 14 years there, CIBC said in a press release Friday. She is leaving to become chief executive of another institution that is not a bank, according to the source, who is familiar with the matter. The Globe and Mail is not naming the source because they are not authorized to speak publicly about her departure.

Ms. Dottori-Attanasio declined to comment on her exit.

Ms. Dottori-Attanasio has run CIBC’s largest division since early 2020, making her one of the most senior women in Canadian banking. Previously, she oversaw CIBC’s risk-management activities as chief risk officer, and before that led corporate and global banking as head of corporate credit products.

Prior to joining CIBC, Ms. Dottori-Attanasio was an executive at National Bank of Canada, with expertise in corporate banking.

Since the 2008 global financial crisis, banking regulators have stressed that bank leaders should have ample experience in risk management, because deficiencies in this area created problems for so many institutions during that time.

At CIBC, Ms. Dottori-Attanasio was one of the few senior leaders with a deep background in that area, as well as experience running one of the bank’s key divisions. In her latest role, she reshaped the bank’s domestic mortgage portfolio after investors expressed concerns about its rate of growth and performance.

Her sudden departure raises questions about the board of directors’ succession plans, because CIBC’s remaining executives may need more time for grooming. CEO Victor Dodig has been in his job for more than eight years, and a typical Canadian bank CEO tenure lasts about 10 years.

With Ms. Dottori-Attanasio leaving, two current members of Mr. Dodig’s senior executive team are most often highlighted as potential successors. One is Shawn Beber, who was named head of CIBC’s U.S. operations in October after nearly two years as chief risk officer, and has also served as general counsel. The second is chief financial officer Hratch Panossian, an executive who rose through the ranks quickly with roles in finance, treasury and corporate development but has yet to run a major profit-making business line.

In the meantime, investors have been showing displeasure with Mr. Dodig’s performance.

When CIBC reported full-year earnings in late 2022, the bank announced that its net interest margin, or the amount of money it makes per loan, was shrinking. That is unusual, because margins typically increase as interest rates climb higher, but Mr. Dodig and Mr. Panossian struggled to explain exactly why. Frustrated investors dumped the stock, sending it 7.7 per cent lower in a single day.

CIBC is the worst performing Big Six bank stock over the past year, and its shares have lost 29 per cent of their value over that period.

To fill the hole left by Ms. Dottori-Attanasio’s departure, CIBC announced Friday that Jon Hountalas, the bank’s head of commercial banking and wealth management, will add personal and business banking to his responsibilities. The move puts most of CIBC’s Canadian operations under a single leader, but it is unclear whether that will be a long-term solution.

Ms. Dottori-Attanasio’s departure adds to recent turnover among women in the top ranks of Canada’s banks. None of the Big Six banks have ever named a female CEO.

Last January, Teri Currie left her job leading Canadian retail banking at Toronto-Dominion Bank TD-T. The previous fall, Joanna Rotenberg departed from her post as Bank of Montreal’s BMO-T head of wealth management to join Fidelity Investments. Previous top-level executives, such as TD’s Colleen Johnston and Royal Bank of Canada’s RY-T Janice Fukakusa, also left their positions without reaching the CEO’s office.

Over the past two decades, CIBC has had multiple women in senior roles that put them in contention to become CEO, including Jill Denham and Sonia Baxendale, but all of them ultimately left the bank.

Ms. Dottori-Attanasio’s tenure at CIBC spanned two leaders. When she joined, in 2009, CIBC was run by Gerry McCaughey, who abruptly told the board in 2014 that he wanted to leave only one year into his new contract. At the time, CIBC’s succession plan was murky, and the board conducted a thorough search for a new leader that considered external candidates.

Mr. Dodig, who previously ran CIBC’s wealth-management arm, was ultimately named CEO in 2014, and Ms. Dottori-Attanasio joined his leadership team.

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