Adrian Coles, the director-general of the Building Societies Association, has revealed plans to stand down once a successor can be found for him, probably later this year.
Mr Coles – who joined the BSA as an economist in 1979 – said: "I have held this post for 20 years, and it is time for a change, both from my point of view and that of the association."
The 58-year old said he has no firm plans for the future but intends to continue working in financial services. "Now is the right time for me to seek to develop my career in other ways," he said.
He became director-general of the Association in July 1993 and has seen huge changes in the building society sector during his time in charge, not least the large number which decided to demutualise and were subsequently swallowed up by banks.
The BSA represents the interests of mutual lenders and deposit takers across the UK, which includes all 47 remaining British building societies, the biggest of which is the 800-branch Nationwide.