Guardian Bank, one of Los Angeles' biggest community banks, has fired its second chief executive in less than a year.
Howard Fletcher, chief executive of the bank since last September, was let go by the bank's board because of "basic, business-style differences," said chairman Paul M. Harris.
"It had nothing to do with the direction of the bank," Mr. Harris said. "It boiled down to management style."
Neither Mr. Fletcher, nor two board members he had recruited who were also asked to resign, could be reached for comment.
Mr. Harris said that Mr. Fletcher "had done many good things for the bank," and predicted the chief executive's separation from the company would be amicable.
Guardian, a $510 million bank that specializes in real estate finance, has had a rough year. After losing millions in 1992 and under regulatory pressure, the bank's board lured its founding chief executive and vice chairman, specialists in real estate lending.
After helping found the bank in 1983, the duo turned it into one of the most prolific real estate lenders in the business. In May 1992, just as the recession was hitting California, a full 45% of the bank's equity was wrapped up in real estate.
Chopped Costs, Assets
Mr. Fletcher, a former Security Pacific Bank executive, was put in their place. He slashed assets and overhead, cutting more than $200 million off its footings and millions of dollars in salaries.
His biggest achievement was the raising of $19.7 million in capital early this year that probably staved off a federal takeover.
A brusque man, Mr. Fletcher said earlier this year that Guardian "was a high-cost bank when I got here and continues to be higher cost than I'd like it to be."
Evidently, his style alienated people inside and outside the bank.
"Our disagreement had to do with overall management style," Mr. Harris said. "That does include how you get on with everybody in the world."
Mr. Harris stressed that the strategic direction of the company remains unchanged. Guardian Bank wants to stay in the real estate business and has had plans for some time to acquire a mortgage banking company.