Shares of Providian Financial ( PVN) fell 5% Tuesday after the troubled credit card issuer said its chief financial officer Jim Rowe had resigned. President and CEO Joseph Saunders said Rowe left the company to pursue other activities. He added that David Petrini has resigned as vice chairman to serve as interim financial chief. The company has retained a recruitment firm to assist in the search for a new chief financial officer. At least one analyst believed that Providian was probably nudging Rowe out the door as part of a continuing effort to help the company leave its past behind. "This is Saunders making an imprint on the management structure," said Mathew Park, an analyst at Thomas Weisel Partners. "He inherited most of this from before he arrived. It's obviously the original management that had the underwriting problem last year." Saunders was named chief executive of Providian in November, after the subprime lending business -- the practice of lending to high-risk clients at higher interest rates -- collapsed amid a weak economy, mounting job losses and tougher regulations. In an effort to increase liquidity, Providian submitted a capital improvement plan to bank regulators that was accepted this month. Fellow subprime lender NextCard ( NXCD) had its online banking operation shut down by regulators Feb. 7 after its attempts to turn the operation around failed. "Whether Saunders wasn't comfortable with
Rowe or whether it was the regulators, I don't know," said Charlotte Chamberlain, an analyst at Jefferies. "I wasn't expecting the resignation, but I'm not really surprised." Chamberlain said the move doesn't change her opinion of Providian's stock, which she currently rates a sell. "They're definitely not out of the woods," she said. "They're operating under a capital plan, which is a very restrictive way of operating." In its most recent quarter, Providian lost $481 million, including about $1 billion in charges to boost reserves and cover various loan losses. The firm has been laying off workers and selling assets to improve its financial position. Providian, whose stock fell 94% last year, slipped 5% to $4.01 Tuesday. Still, the shares have climbed more than 17% since Feb. 7. Other stocks in the group were mixed. Conseco ( CNC) was down 1% to $3.37, Capital One ( COF) was off 0.4% to $45.79, AmeriCredit ( ACF) was up 0.8% to $21.75, and Metris ( MXT) was higher by 1% to $15.25.