SAN FRANCISCO - Independent Bancorp of Arizona's move to replace its high-profile leader, Anthony M. Frank, was due to its need for a full-time chairman, not pressure from investors, the company's former chief said on Monday.

Independent, parent of Phoenix-based Caliber Bank, announced last week that Mr. Frank, a long-time thrift executive and former postmaster general, had resigned as chairman and chief executive and given up his seats on the bank and holding company boards.

To replace him, the company tapped Richard D.C. Whilden, a former manager of the credit reporting unit of TRW Inc.

Was Caliber's Chairman

Mr. Whilden is a member of The Contrarian Investment Group, the investment firm headed by California businessman Peter V. Ueberroth which set up Independent a year ago. Before his promotion, Mr. Whilden served as an Independent director and chairman of Caliber.

In a telephone interview, Mr. Frank said the change reflects Independent's need for an active chief based in Arizona. Both he and Mr. Whilden have remained in California while Independent got off the ground.

"It's time to have a full-time chairman," Mr. Frank said. "One of us needed to move to Arizona. [Mr. Whilden] was willing to do so and I wasn't."

To Be Schwab Director

Mr. Frank said he is leaving Independent's board in order to become a director of the discount brokerage firm Charles Schwab & Co.

Federal law prevents him from serving simultaneously as a director of a bank and of a brokerage house.

He stressed that his relations with Contrarian remain cordial and that he will continue as a consultant to Indepedendent.

Investors Expected a Say

Contrarian formed Independent to buy Arizona operations divested by BankAmerica Corp. following its 1992 merger with Security Pacific Corp. Most of Independent's financing came from outside investors.

Some of those investors have said they expected the company to replace Mr. Frank with a chairman approved by them.

As a Contrarian insider, however, Mr. Whilden does not appear to be the investors' candidate.

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