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By Guillermo Parra-Bernal
SAO PAULO, Feb 23 (Reuters) - Itaú Unibanco Holding SA on Monday appointed executives to lead retail- and wholesale-banking units of Brazil's No. 1 lender by market value, in preparation for the succession of Chief Executive Officer Roberto Egydio Setubal.
According to a statement, former senior vice president Marco Bonomi will head Itaú's retail banking unit, which will be known as DGV. Candido Bracher, head of wholesale and investment-banking unit Itaú BBA, will be responsible for wholesale banking and asset management business under the so-called DGA division.
Marcio Schettini, another former senior vice president, was named the head of a general division comprising technology, operations and efficiency.
Investors and analysts expect one of the three division heads to replace Setubal at the helm of the bank when he retires in about two years. Setubal, who has presided over the bank since 1994, is a member of one of the families controlling Itaú Unibanco, which also include the Villelas and the Moreira Salles.
"These changes underpin our enormous dynamism and will strengthen Itaú Unibanco even more," the statement quoted Setubal as saying. "Our goal continues to be that of constantly renewing ourselves in order to create more value."
Setubal's overhaul of Itaú's chain of command comes as the bank is experiencing record profitability and operational transformation. Over the past two years, Itaú shunned fast growth and instead tapped the least risky credit segments, ramped up fee income, curbed expenses, expanded overseas and tightened loan disbursement standards.
Setubal's ability to steer Itaú through years of slow growth in Brazil has made its stock a market favorite: 13 of the 18 analysts covering the bank rate it a "buy" and only one as "sell," according to Thomson Reuters data. Itaú is the most heavily traded stock on the São Paulo Stock Exchange, and is up 32 percent in the past year.
Two years ago, Itaú announced a plan to amend bylaws and prepare shareholders for a management succession process that could last four years. Back then, Setubal agreed to step down as president of Itaú Unibanco SA, the bank's commercial bank, as he approached the mandatory retirement age of 60.
The new bylaws included a clause allowing Setubal to retire as CEO of Itaú Unibanco Holding at age 62.
Under the new structure, Itaú Unibanco will have a management team comprised of Bonomi, Bracher and Schettini - the three division directors - and two senior vice presidents.
The two new senior vice presidents will be Eduardo Vassimon, who will accumulate the titles of Itaú's chief financial officer and chief risk officer, and Claudia Politanksi, who will accumulate the titles of chief legal officer and head of human resources and institutional relations.
Bonomi's responsibilities include running the retail bank, as well as looking after the card processing business and the marketing area.
Apart from the wholesale banking unit, Bracher will also take responsibility for the investment services and transaction systems unit as well as Itaú's fast-growing Latin America business. (Reporting by Guillermo Parra-Bernal; Editing by Chris Reese, Cynthia Osterman and Ken Wills)