The new boss of the West Bromwich Building Society has remained tight-lipped over plans for the 159-year-old mutual following the shock departure of chief executive Stephen Karle.
Robert Sharpe posed for photographers with West Brom chairman Brian Woods-Scawen but had nothing to say about his appointment.
Mr Karle’s sudden resignation and the appointment of Mr Sharpe has raised speculation about the future of the country’s ninth biggest building society.
Mr Sharpe was chief executive of Bournemouth-based Portman and his aggressive expansion policies promoted it from 13th to third.
Under Mr Sharpe the Portman swallowed up the Staffordshire BS in 2003 but was then itself taken over by the Nationwide, the country’s biggest mutual mortgage lender. A spokesman for the West Brom yesterday denied that Mr Karle’s resignation was connected to reports that the Nationwide is now looking to absorb the Black Country organisation.
Mr Karle’s decision to resign only two years after succeeding Andrew Messenger as chief executive was said to be a personal move that had been under discussion for some time. He was also said to have agreed to stay on until a successor could move in.