NEW YORK — After surviving the financial crisis in strong shape, People's United Financial Inc.'s board abruptly decided it needs a new leadership.
Most banks needed to raise capital or at least preserve capital over the last two years. People's, of Bridgeport, Conn., is one of the few with the opposite problem. Analysts assume that Chief Executive Philip Sherringham didn't move fast enough to deploy capital, leaving the board impatient.
On Monday, the bank said Sherringham resigned "by mutual agreement" with its board. "The Board believes that new leadership is necessary to take the Company to the next level," Chairman George Carter said in the release. A spokeswoman said there was "no single catalyst" for the management change.
Sherringham couldn't immediately be contacted for comment.
People's is searching for a new CEO; Chief Administrative Officer John Barnes will lead the bank in the interim.
During a conference call with investors, Carter said there is "no change in strategy" at People's. "I wouldn't say that we were unhappy" with Sherringham's strategy. "But I would say that we are extremely interested in moving forward to hopefully make the right acquisition."
Carter made clear the board has no intention of selling People's and said the regional bank is not only focused on acquisitions of failed banks auctioned by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. but also healthy banks far beyond its home turf.
JPMorgan Securities analyst Steven Alexopoulos, who had quizzed Carter during the call, wrote in a research report afterward, "Our read: the Board was unhappy with the pace of capital deployment."
Bidding for attractive failed banks has picked up in recent months, and stocks for regional banks have rebounded. "For a bank sitting on a war chest of capital, time does not appear to be on their side," Alexopoulos said.
Frank J. Barkocy, the director of research at Mendon Capital Advisors Corp., said Sherringham "missed too many opportunities by sitting on capital."
He said People's might have set its eyes on Brookline Bancorp Inc. and its chief executive, Paul Perrault. Perrault led Chittenden Corp., which People's bought in 2008, and then was briefly CEO of Sovereign Bancorp., which Banco Santander SA bought in 2009. He "would be a big plus" for People's, Barkocy said.
Brookline Bancorp wasn't immediately available for comment.
Carter said Sherringham "has helped manage the Company through an exceptionally challenging environment. And we appreciate his hard work in getting People's United to the strong position it is in today."
Shares of People's rose 2% in morning trading, to $16.22. The shares outpeformed bank stocks and the market during the worst days of the financial crisis but have lagged the resurrection of the bank-stock sector. So far this year, the stock is down almost 3%.