Vice chairman Michael E. Rossi said he will leave BankAmerica Corp. by June 30, becoming the third top banker to resign since David A. Coulter took over as chief executive last winter.
Mr. Rossi, 52, said he plans to give up banking altogether and pursue, among other things, a career as a writer of mystery novels.
"This is a chance for me to do some traveling and some things that I never had enough nerve to try to make money from," Mr. Rossi said.
Mr. Rossi, a 10-year veteran of the company, oversaw commercial lending and several other areas. He played a key role in integrating Continental Bank Corp., which BankAmerica acquired in 1994 as a beachhead for corporate business in the Midwest.
His departure, analysts said, could have ripple effects throughout the company. Specifically, it could help clear the way for Mr. Coulter to name someone to the strategically crucial post of retail chief. The post has been left open since former vice chairman Luther S. Helms left the bank on Oct. 31.
Observers pointed out that some of Mr. Rossi's duties, including oversight of trust and asset management, may be put under the retail chief, bolstering the appeal of that job.
Mr. Rossi's move is the latest in a series of changes in top management.
"Coulter wants to get his own guys in there," said a local consultant familiar with the bank. "At these levels, chemistry plays a big part in the way businesses work, and I suspect that the chemistry and bonds just weren't there" between Mr. Coulter and Mr. Rossi, the consultant said.
Lewis B. Coleman, former vice chairman and chief financial officer, was the first to defect after Mr. Coulter was appointed CEO. Mr. Coleman, now a managing director at San Francisco-based Montgomery Securities, had been viewed as a likely successor to former BankAmerica chairman Richard M. Rosenberg. And Mr. Rossi was considered an ally of Mr. Coleman.
Mr. Helms, the former head of California retail, was another top contender for Mr. Rosenberg's position.
"None of these changes are really that surprising considering that most of them probably aspired to be in the driver's seat there," said Campbell Chaney, a banking analyst with Sandler O'Neill Partners. "Plus, a lot of these guys were put in by Rosenberg, so Coulter has to build his own team around him."
It's unclear whether Mr. Coulter will fill Mr. Rossi's post or parcel out the duties to other managers. In the meantime, many eyes are on the retail post, which is responsible for the lion's share of the company's business.
Currently, the job is being filled by Thomas E. Peterson, a vice chairman who has said he will retire this year as soon as the company can replace him. Mr. Peterson would be the fourth member of the nine-member managing committee to resign under Mr. Coulter's tenure.
Possible candidates from outside include Leslie S. Biller, a Norwest Corp. executive vice president credited with building up that bank's retail initiatives. Mr. Biller is a BankAmerica alumnus who worked with Mr. Coulter in the mid-1980s.
Analysts also suggested Edward A. O'Neal, who will soon be leaving Bank of Boston Corp. Mr. O'Neal was a vice chairman in charge of retail at the Boston bank, and he previously spent 23 years at Chemical Banking Corp. as head of consumer banking.
Within BankAmerica, Barbara J. Desoer, the group executive vice president in charge of California retail, may also be on the inside track, observers said. She has moved up quickly within the bank, rising from district manager just five years ago.
Liam E. McGee, who preceded Ms. Desoer in the California retail job but is now executive vice president of support services, is also a contender, observers said.
Meanwhile, Mr. Rossi said he is set to enjoy his new life at a recently purchased home in Monterey, where he plans to write a mystery novel set in post-World War Two Hawaii. He also plans to develop a screenplay and learn to play the guitar professionally, perhaps in a local jazz trio, he said.
"I guess when you're a Berkeley liberal, you're a Berkeley liberal," said Mr. Rossi, who was a 1966 graduate of the college.