Angela Knight, the public face of the banking industry in the UK, has announced her intention to step down as chief executive of the British Bankers' Association (BBA) in the summer. Knight will stay on while the search for her successor is carried out.
Knight, an ex-Conservative MP whose political skills have come in handy during a turbulent time in the industry, has been at the BBA for five years. Her tenure has spanned the worst financial crash since the 1929 collapse and seen increased vitriol directed against bankers for their bonuses and lack of connection to the real economy.
Nevertheless, Knight’s tenure saw the BBA grow in strength and influence, providing representation and policy co-ordination for over two hundred member banks including the largest banks operating in the UK, partly as a collective response to the public anger against individual banks. Her departure is likely to have precipitated by the long-running Payment Protection Insurance (PPI) mis-selling scandal in Britain, which was initially defended in the High Court by the BBA and others, but ended up costing UK banks £7 billion in compensation payments.
"I have been at the BBA at a time of extraordinary difficulty and during a crisis of a magnitude that few if any have seen before or expected,” said Knight. “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. The UK banking industry has already undergone radical restructuring to make it fit for the future and I am pleased to have played a part in this."
Knight has been chief executive of the BBA since 1 April 2007. Previously she was head of the Association of Private Client Investment Managers and Stockbrokers for nine years. From 1987 to 1992 she was a councillor and chief whip on Sheffield City Council, before entering the House of Commons in 1992 as the Member of Parliament for Erewash. She was Economic Secretary to the Treasury between 1995 and 1997.
Knight remains a non-executive director on the boards of Brewin Dolphin and Tullett Prebon, and is a board member of the Financial Skills Partnership. With her continued defence of the banking industry against almost daily attacks since the financial crisis of 2008, Knight is unlikely to go without a job for long. Whoever takes over from her, however, is likely to face the same robust questioning and scrutiny of the banking sector, which an inevitable consequence of the excessive practices of old.
By Neil Ainger