Search for new BBA boss starts as Knight quits

THE HEAD of the British Bankers’ Association (BBA), the banking trade body, is to step down after a tumultuous five years at the helm, marking a period of heavy lobbying by lenders.

Former Tory MP and BBA chief Angela Knight said she is leaving in the summer because “I have one more job in me”, but she would not be drawn on whether she will seek a role in the private or political sphere.

One name being touted as a successor by some bankers is that of Alexander Justham, a former JP Morgan banker who recently left his job as head of markets at the FSA.

But it is understood that a shortlist has already been drawn up that does not yet include Justham.

Knight’s departure sparked a flood of praise despite deeply divided opinions among BBA members over her handling of the PPI mis-selling scandal last year.

BBA chairman Marcus Agius said: “I would like to pay tribute to Angela Knight’s extraordinary leadership and energy. She has piloted the British Bankers’ Association – and the industry – with skill and determination through turbulent times.”

And one banking source said her departure has prompted fears that the BBA, which represents the British operations of 200 banks from 60 countries, could see an exodus of talent if the organisation cannot recruit a high-profile replacement.

Asked whether it could be difficult to find someone willing to take the job of speaking up for banks, Knight said: “I sincerely hope not. It’s still a great industry.”

But she said it had been “challenging” navigating the divergent interests of Britain’s banks, which are frequently at odds over how to respond to new regulations.

And her replacement will also have to contend with a huge international investigation into alleged manipulation of the data that generates the London interbank offered rate (Libor), a key BBA-branded benchmark.

Knight said: “It is certainly about issues relating to [Libor] contributors, not ourselves.” And she said there is no alternative to using Libor as a market benchmark: “Unless anybody’s got a better way, which I haven’t heard, we will continue with it.”

Knight added that one of her regrets was having had little time to get to know bank chiefs before the financial crisis. She joined the BBA in April 2007 after a career including a stint as a Treasury minister and as co-founder of an engineering firm.