Knight stepping down as face of UK banking

The woman who has been the public face of banking in the UK throughout the financial crisis is to step down.

Angela Knight announced yesterday that she was quitting as chief executive of the British Bankers' Association (BBA), five years after taking up the role. That was only months before the first run on a British bank in more than a century, which resulted in the nationalisation of Northern Rock.

Since then Ms Knight, pictured, has defended the banking industry as two of the major players had to be bailed out by taxpayers to the tune of £65bn, bankers' bonuses became the target of politicians' and the public's ire, and the sector was found to have indulged in mis-selling of insurance products which cost it £7bn in compensation payments to victims.

Asked about the widespread loathing of bankers and their bonuses, Ms Knight said: "Events have overtaken the perception of bankers. The whole business of the financial crisis overwhelmed the fact that we have a fantastic industry in this country which punches above its weight globally."

She is leaving at a time when the BBA is coming under increasing pressure to change the way Libor, the key interest rate that banks charge for lending to each other, is calculated. Financial regulators around the globe are investigating allegations that banks and traders colluded to fix the rate to hide their true cost of borrowing.

Ms Knight believes she has set out a framework for a new, open way to calculate Libor. She said: "The issues of the past are for the authorities. What we can do is something about the future."

Headhunters began the search for her replacement yesterday, and she will stay on until that person has been found. She said: "I joined the BBA on April Fool's Day 2007 and have been here at a time of extraordinary difficulty and during a crisis of a magnitude that few, if any, have seen before or expected. More or less anything that could have happened did happen.

"The BBA has played a strong part throughout this challenging period and has helped the industry it represents with the significant changes to regulation and legislation required."

Marcus Agius, the chairman of the BBA and Barclays, said: "Angela has been instrumental in overseeing the BBA's development as the key voice in the debate on the future of the banking sector."

A former Conservative Treasury minister who went on to run the Association of Private Client Investment Managers and Stockbrokers, Ms Knight, 61, said: "I've got another big job in me although I have no irons in the fire."

Asked if she might return to politics she said: "I'm ducking any political questions. All I will say is that I eat sausage rolls rather than pasties because they have less pastry on them."