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Nancy Reynolds, the face of the North America channel at Trend Micro for the last five years, unexpectedly resigned from the number-three software security company to become vice president of world wide channel sales at  Palo Alto Networks, a firewall startup.

Trend Micro—which boasts a channel program of nearly 12,000 partners—was quick to react to Reynolds’ surprise departure, appointing Tom Miller, general manager of the enterprise business unit, to oversee the company’s North America channels. Miller said the company is already assessing internal candidates and assessing needs for the replacement, whom he hopes to name after the close of the current quarter.

“Nancy has a great reputation with our partners. She was the image our channel, and that was something Nancy worked so hard at, and we will make sure to establish with our replacement,” Miller said.

Reynolds said the decision to leave was hers, and it was a tough one.

"I’ve made good friends, and I’ve left a great bench so I’m sure Trend Micro will make a quick decision," about a replacement, she said.

Reynolds starts at Palo Alto Networks on October 1.

"It was an attactive opportunity because the company is well funded, it has a great product, and it’s 100 percent channel," she said. "And it’s giving me the opportunity to go worldwide and look at things globally, which I hadn’t had an opportunity to do in my previous two jobs."

Miller spoke highly of Reynolds’ leadership abilities and record, and attributed Trend Micro’s growth in the channel and the quality of its channel team to her work. The channel team has been reaching out to partners with assurances that Reynolds’ departure won’t result in short-term program changes or radical strategy shifts.

“Our partners are very aware of our commitment to the channel,” said Jean Lozano, director of North America channel marketing. “We are 100 percent committed to the channel, and channel partners know that they can pick up the phone and call us directly.”

Miller added, “I really don’t expect to have do much deep analysis about the idea of Trend’s philosophy around channel or the structure we’ve had for many years.”

Reynolds received much credit for Trend Micro’s recent gains against security-market leader Symantec. Over the past two years, Symantec has tripped several times with product releases and bug-plagued partner ordering systems that resulted in partners either raising their consideration of competitor products or defecting to security rivals, such as Trend Micro.

Vendors often use channel leadership changes as opportunities to lure nervous partners away from competitive channel programs. While a concern for Trend Micro, Lozano believes there will be little—if any—disruption to current channel operations that would cause partners to defect.

“With the change, Nancy leaves a talented channel management team and we continue as business as usual and we will continue along with anything that we currently have in the hopper,” she said.