Kelly Gage, Comerica | Next 2021
National Director of Commercial Bank Sales and Strategy
In March 2020, Kelly Gage met at Comerica Bank and when she stepped out the Federal Reserve had cut its benchmark rate to zero in an emergency measure to support the economy as the COVID-19 virus swept through the country.
Gage immediately got to work helping rate-sensitive Comerica reassess loans and deposits. She responded to growing questions about whether to include floor rates on new loans, what to do about new pricing targets and decisions on waivers and deferrals of existing debt. “We had to make choices quickly,” Gage said in an interview.
Gage began Comerica’s much-vaunted credit analyst training program when she joined in 2004. This early experience of learning how to assess credit risk benefited Gage later, when she graduated. to the role of relationship manager and loaned money to midsize companies, the Dallas Bread and Butter Bank.
Gage has taken on an assortment of projects over the years, including playing a central role in Comerica’s “Gear Up” initiative in 2016 to help keep company spending under control. She helped adapt the day-to-day processes that bankers had to follow to become more efficient.
Then, Gage said, he was offered a role “on a small project” that the head of the commercial bank had embarked on. Comerica organized a series of town halls to get employee feedback on the changes they felt were necessary
This has led to a new full-time role for Gage, which is essentially tasked with figuring out how to translate the leadership’s vision into practical changes in the $ 83.6 billion asset bank. “Now I have a team,” she said. “I got to know more than one industry.”
Among the initiatives underway: National Dealer Services, one of the areas she has become familiar with, is working to develop lending practices for tech and life science startups, which typically don’t have not yet declared income but have large venture capital funders.
Comerica also credited Gage with playing a key role in its transition to a new incentive plan for those in charge of relations with commercial banks.
The redesign, which aims to tie performance to tighter compensation, required coordination with the human resources, finance and risk departments and a lot of training for the sales team, managers and senior executives. Gage was a subject matter expert who handled all aspects of the deployment, explaining the rationale behind the incentive plan to win over colleagues at the bank.
As part of this effort, Comerica also worked with managers to help them become better coaches.
When the pandemic struck, Gage relied on his “unique career path” to help address the urgency of loan pricing reviews.
“His role in determining Comerica’s prices has been essential,” especially when the Fed’s rate fell to zero overnight, said Peter Sefzik, the executive director overseeing commercial banking at Comerica. “Its ability to deal with uncertainty has enabled the bank to be successful.”
Comerica is still undergoing changes brought on by the pandemic, and Gage is working to implement them, such as developing standards for how bankers work with clients via video.
In the long term, she would like to revisit the credit analyst program where she started. She hopes to develop a new generation of interns with the same mix of risk management and relationship management skills that she says has helped her.
“I would love to continue to build this structure and improve this training program,” said Gage.
Executive Appointment: Peter Sefzik, Executive Director, Commercial Bank
What he said: “Kelly is one of the most effective, articulate and hardworking colleagues I have worked with in my 21 year career at Comerica. His experience, scope and responsibilities are only enhanced by his exceptional communication skills, his ability to simplify extremely complex problems into manageable problems for others, and his sincere and high level of emotional intelligence.