Martin Blessing, chief executive of Germany's second-biggest lender, Commerzbank, has decided to step down next October, the bank said Sunday. Blessing has been in charge since May 2008 and had been asked by the board to extend his current contract, which runs out in October 2016, the BBC said.

“I was delighted to be offered a contract extension and am honored by the trust placed in me. … Nevertheless, after long and intensive consideration, I decided not to accept the offer,” Blessing said in a statement published by the bank. He said it had not been an easy decision but felt that now was a good time for a "new chapter" in his career.

Blessing helped the bank recover following the financial crisis. In 2008 and 2009, the German government invested around 16.4 billion euros ($18.1 billion) in Commerzbank as it struggled to integrate the distressed Dresdner Bank into the group.

"We have overcome the major challenges of the financial crisis or will do so in the coming months. We are also clearly on track to reclaiming our position as a sustainably successful bank," Blessing said in the statement.

The Wall Street Journal reported that Blessing’s decision appears to have come as a surprise to the bank’s board, which not have an apparent successor in the wings.

CEOs at Deutsche Bank AG, Barclays Plc and Credit Suisse Group AG also have quit in recent months, Bloomberg noted.

Blessing faced shareholder criticism for turning to the government, but over the years he has succeeded in stabilizing the bank’s earnings.

Supervisory Board Chairman Klaus-Peter Müller said he deeply regretted Mr. Blessing’s decision, adding that he had been “hopeful that we could extend the contract.”

Commerzbank reports third-quarter earnings on Monday. The company is expected to say operating profit fell 7 percent to 319 million euros in the period from a year earlier, according to the average of four analyst estimates compiled by Bloomberg.