NU Online News Service, March 6, 4:23 p.m. – Conseco Inc., Carmel, Ind., says Charles Chokel, the company’s chief financial officer, is leaving the company immediately to “pursue other interests.”

Chokel, 48, held the position for a year, after spending 23 years at The Progressive Corp., Mayfield Village, Ohio.

“We appreciate Chuck’s work and wish him well,” Conseco Chairman Gary Wendt says in the statement announcing the departure.

Bill Shea, Conseco’s president, will be the acting CFO until a replacement is found, Conseco says. From 1993 to 1998, Shea was the CFO of Bank Boston Corp., Boston.

Conseco has faced mounting concerns this year about its ability to handle the debt accumulated by its consumer finance unit.

The Street.com, a Web business site, is singling the departure announcement out as an example of a “bad chief financial officer leaving story.”

Stockholders reacted to the departure by sending the price of Conseco’s stock down more than 15% around the time it was announced.

But Jayan Dhru, an analyst who follows Conseco for Standard & Poor’s, says announcements of departures should not really surprise anyone who has been following Conseco.

“The company is going through significant tough times,” Dhru says.

The one saving grace has been strong results at the operating company level, Dhru says.