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Sovereign Bank CEO resigns; successor named

Boston-based Sovereign Bank is getting a new chief executive, the third leadership shake-up since Spanish banking giant Banco Santander SA bought Sovereign in 2009, the company said Tuesday.

Jorge Moran, chief executive of the bank and Santander’s US subsidiary, Santander Holdings USA, for less than three years, abruptly announced Tuesday that he was resigning. He will be replaced by Roman Blanco, a bank executive with experience mostly in Latin America, Santander said.

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“Jorge Moran has stepped down as president and CEO of Sovereign Bank and Santander US Country Head after successfully reorganizing Santander’s businesses in the US, transforming Sovereign into a full-fledged commercial bank, and preparing the Bank for a new chapter of growth,” said Mary Ellen Higgins, a Sovereign spokeswoman, in an e-mail. “Mr. Moran and Mr. Blanco are now working together to ensure an orderly transition.”

Moran is leaving the bank to pursue other interests, Higgins said.

Moran’s departure comes just a few months after the bank announced that it planned a rebranding campaign that would change the name to Santander from Sovereign. Moran had been a quiet presence in the Boston banking scene, but had recently raised his profile when he gave the keynote address at the Bentley University Graduate School of Business commencement ceremony in May.

Sovereign is one of the largest regional banks in the Northeast. With $19 billion in deposits, it ranks behind Bank of America and Citizens Bank in Massachusetts.

Banco Santander’s profits have declined as the European economy has struggled and low interest rates squeeze the income of banks globally. Banco Santander’s $1.6 billion in first-quarter profits were down about 26 percent from the same period a year ago, the company said in April. Profits from its US operations declined slightly from the first quarter of 2012.

Blanco has worked for Santander since 2004. Jerry Grundhofer, chairman of the Sovereign Bank and Santander Holdings USA boards, praised Blanco’s ability to deliver “outstanding results in his prior assignments.”

But successfully running a bank in Latin America and Europe doesn’t always translate to triumph in the United States, where competition from regional players is more intense, said Suzanne Moot, a Milton banking consultant. “It sounds like he has a great deal of international experience. But the US market is different,” she said.

Deirdre Fernandes can be reached at deirdre.fernandes@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @fernandesglobe.
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