James P. Biggs, who had been designated to assume the top job at People's Bank on Jan. 1, said Thursday he would retire instead.

Mr. Biggs, who was selected a year ago to take the post of chairman and chief executive David E. A. Carson, decided in the past few days that he did not want the job, said People's spokeswoman Roberta Burns-Howard.

Mr. Biggs, who was promoted from executive vice president for marketing and regional banking to president last January, was to become CEO of the $11.8 billion-asset bank Jan. 1 and chairman in January 2000.

Ms. Burns-Howard said that Mr. Biggs' decision to leave People's was a surprise. According to Ms. Burns-Howard, Mr. Biggs said he prefers building a business to the ambassadorial duties that come with the CEO's spot.

Mr. Biggs, 58, started as a trainee in the auditing department in 1964. He is considered responsible for People's involvement in telephone, video, and supermarket banking, as well as securities brokerage and trust.

Mr. Carson will assume the president's title when Mr. Biggs retires until a successor is found, the bank said.

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