* Knight led rearguard on pay, bailouts, regulation,
* No successor named; search underway
* Next BBA CEO faces fallout from Libor probe
By Huw Jones and Steve Slater
LONDON, April 2 The head cheerleader for
Britain's banks is to step down from her role after five years
defending the industry over pay, taxpayer bailouts and the
mis-selling of products to millions of customers.
Angela Knight, chief executive of lobby group the British
Bankers' Association (BBA), will step down in the summer, the
trade body said on Monday.
It did not name her successor, who will immediately face the
task of defending the BBA itself against an international probe
into the alleged manipulation of the London Interbank Offered
Rate (Libor) benchmark by contributing banks.
The BBA is to review how Libor is set but said it has no
plans to cede oversight. The probes span the United States,
Europe and Asia as regulators assess whether banks and
interdealer brokers attempted to rig the price.
"Getting a group of all the relevant parties in a manner to
evolve Libor is not the easiest thing to have to do but it needs
to be done," Knight told Reuters.
Knight, 61, will stay on while the search for a successor
continues. A list of potential suitors has been drawn up, one
person familiar with the matter said.
It could include Simon Lewis, CEO of European investment
banking lobby group AFME who was a senior aide to former UK
prime ministers Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, and a director of
corporate affairs at Vodafone and NatWest bank.
Top challenges for her successor include dealing with big
regulatory changes like the "ring fencing" of UK deposit-taking
banks with extra capital, Knight said.
She took the BBA's reins in April 2007, becoming the first
woman to head the body, which was set up in 1919 and speaks for
more than 200 UK and international banks, such as HSBC,
Barclays and J.P. Morgan.
"It's hard to speak with one voice for the whole industry.
She's also been first out the trenches on a lot of issues, so
you need a thick skin," a person at a BBA member bank said.
Knight joined just as the U.S. subprime mortgage crisis was
about to trigger a chain reaction that culminated with the
demise of U.S. bank Lehman Brothers in Sept. 2008, causing a
near-meltdown of the financial system.
She had to speak up for banks as Northern Rock, HBOS
and Royal Bank of Scotland neared collapse and
needed taxpayers to pump in more than 65 billion pounds.
"It was a time when you really did not quite know what was
happening next. Share prices were falling, people were being
called into Downing Steet and the Treasury, but the hairiest
moment was when Lehman fell and all bets were off," Knight said.
She also defended the industry in the face of increased
regulation from UK and global financial watchdogs, the
mis-selling of millions of insurance product contracts, and
frequent accusations of excessive pay.
The former politician was often outspoken. She said on
arrival she would be more vocal than her predecessor, Ian
Mullen, slamming a tax on bonuses as "populist, political and
Some banks asked her to rein in some of her comments a year
ago, and take a lower profile on certain issues, one industry
Knight is from Sheffield, a city renowned for its steel
industry, and set up a precision engineering business before
becoming a member of parliament for the Conservative party. She
was economic secretary to the Treasury between 1995 and 1997.
She spent nine years heading private investor lobby group
APCIMS before joining the BBA and is expected to seek another
executive role. She is a director at investment firm Brewin
Dolphin and broker Tullett Prebon.
"I have another job in me and I am going to look for it,"