* Christina Kramer appointed retail head
* Jon Hountalas to take on wealth mgmt in expanded role
* CEO says changes designed to develop new leadership (Adds CEO interview)
TORONTO, June 20 (Reuters) - Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce on Tuesday announced changes to its management team, including the departure of retail head David Williamson, who was once a contender for the top job, and wealth management chief Steve Geist.
Christina Kramer, currently executive vice president, retail distribution and channel strategy, was promoted to group head, personal and small business banking and will oversee the bank's retail operations.
Jon Hountalas, who runs the bank's commercial banking business, will also assume responsibility for wealth management in an expanded role as group head, commercial banking and wealth management.
In an interview, Chief Executive Officer Victor Dodig said the changes were a "natural evolution."
"What it does is allow us to provide an opportunity for the next generation of leadership to take on that role," he said. "We have two senior executives who have been with us almost the better part of a decade. They now have an opportunity to put their feet up for a while."
Dodig said the bank was also moving 40 junior executives into different roles to enhance their experience.
Asked if the changes could create a path for his eventual successor, Dodig, 52, said: "Its always a duel opportunity. Youve got to create enough bandwidth in the organization that if something were to happen in the short term to me there will be others who could step in. But in the medium term there will be more that can step into the role."
Harry Culham will continue to run the bank's capital markets business while Larry Richman, CEO of PrivateBancorp, which CIBC is in the process of acquiring, will become group head, US region, when the deal closes on June 23.
Williamson, who had been a contender to become CEO of the bank before Victor Dodig was appointed CEO in 2014, will leave the bank in the first quarter of 2018. Geist will leave at the end of the year.
CIBC also said Deepak Khandelwal, who has worked for management consultancy McKinsey, Google and Rogers , will join the bank in August with a remit to include running its digital banking and call center operations.
CIBC, Canada's fifth biggest lender, last month reported second-quarter earnings that beat market expectations, benefiting from growth across its businesses. (Reporting by Matt Scuffham; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)