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A surprise change in leadership yesterday reshaped the top ranks of Cebra Inc., Bank of Montreal's e-business subsidiary.

President and chief executive officer Renah Persofsky, the second person hired when Cebra was founded in 1996, has left the firm. Staff found out about the change in an internal e-mail.

Marnie Kinsley, the bank's executive vice-president for e-business, will take over Cebra, according to a note sent round by e-business president and CEO Lloyd Darlington.

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At Cebra, Bank of Montreal is trying to build Internet-based businesses with few links to conventional financial services. Cebra has three major projects: A joint venture with Canada Post called EPOST; an on-line government bid tendering system called Merx; and a business-to-business service called TotalTrade.

Cebra's earnings are not broken out. Bank sources say that to date, the unit has lost money without demonstrating it will dominate any of its target markets.

In the face of weak results in the last quarter, Bank of Montreal CEO Tony Comper made it clear he was re-examining all of the bank's ventures, with an eye to pruning those that were not delivering the best possible results for shareholders.

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