The chief lobbyist for the largest U.S. financial institutions will step down at the end of 2012, after more than a decade of waging regulatory battles, a trade group said on Thursday.

Financial Services Roundtable Chief Executive Steve Bartlett informed his board of the decision this week, the group said. A search for a successor is already under way.

A former Republican U.S. representative and mayor of Dallas, Bartlett started in 1999 as head of the group, which comprises large banks, insurance companies and investment firms. The job made him a top defender of Wall Street during the 2008 financial crisis and the regulatory overhaul known as the Dodd-Frank Act.

In a two-page letter, Bartlett said he wants to leave while he still has energy to pursue new challenges.

The financial industry, he added, is poised to regain our reputation and a fresh face can advance that cause.

The trade group reported spending $7.7 million on lobbying of the federal government in 2011. By comparison, the American Bankers Association, which has some overlap in membership, reported spending $8.1 million.

(Reporting By David Ingram; Editing by Kevin Drawbaugh and Steve Orlofsky)