Donald H. Layton all but waved a "mission accomplished" banner after announcing plans Wednesday to leave E-Trade Financial Corp., but his successor will face plenty of challenges.

The company said Layton, 59, will step down as chairman and chief executive by yearend, when his contract expires. He said in an interview Wednesday that he has fixed the New York company's balance sheet and guided it through the difficult credit cycle. Still, analysts say, E-Trade's next chief executive will have to make crucial decisions, such as whether to sell its banking unit.

Subscribe Now

Access to authoritative analysis and perspective and our data-driven report series.

14-Day Free Trial

No credit card required. Complete access to articles, breaking news and industry data.