British Bankers' Association head Angela Knight, who had to defend the industry during the 2008 credit crisis, is to step down this summer after five years in the job, the BBA said on Monday.

I have been at the British Bankers' Association at a time of extraordinary difficulty and during a crisis of a magnitude that few if any have seen before or expected, she said in a statement.

I leave the BBA in good health and heart. It has a strong and forward looking team of excellent and committed individuals who will be as great a support for my successor as they have been to me, she added.

Knight will stay on while they search for her successor.

She became chief executive of the BBA in April 2007, the first woman to head the industry body that was set up in 1919.

She joined just as the U.S. subprime mortgage crisis was about to trigger a chain reaction that caused a near meltdown of the financial system.

She had to speak up for banks such as Northern Rock, Bradford and Bingley and HBOS when they ran into trouble and had to be rescued or taken over.

The BBA now faces new problems such as an international probe into the alleged manipulation of the London Interbank Offered Rate (Libor) benchmark by contributing banks.

The BBA has announced a review of how Libor is set.

Banks have also come under fire for awarding large bonuses to staff when many workers have had incomes squeezed by muted wage growth and government austerity measures.

Knight, had a background in manufacturing before becoming a member of parliament. She was economic secretary to the Treasury in the last Conservative government between 1995 and 1997.

She is a non-executive director on the boards of investment manager Brewin Dolphin and broker Tullett Prebon .

(Reporting by Sudip Kar-Gupta and Huw Jones; Editing by Myles Neligan)