An independent review of the Financial Ombudsman highlights a number of areas for improvement, including putting a new strategy in place that focuses on being more preventative; improvement handling capability of complex complaints; and managing staff.
Some 23,000 PPI complaints made to the Financial Ombudsman were still to be resolved more than two years after they were made, an independent review has found.
The standout statistic was revealed in an independent review led by Richard Lloyd. The review was launched soon after a Channel 4 Dispatches programme made a number of claims about the quality of the ombudsman’s work, and staff training.
The review looked at the claims in detail and more, for example: whether hundreds of letters had been found unopened after two years; that pressure to deal with caseloads would see decisions made in favour of banks; and that staff are unequipped to deal with complex problems.
While issues around unopened post and favouring banks were found to be unsubstantiated, the review still made a host of recommendations to the ombudsman.
On casework capability, the ombudsman should identify gaps and plan for continuous improvement; particularly in areas such as case-handling, developing approaches, knowledge support and quality assurance.
Such training should also help to strengthen against staff bias, including the use of data analytics to help support decision-making.
“Quality, learning, technological support, and motivational team building” should be a key management focus. “There should be a realistic view of productivity targets that enable robust, high quality casework, proper resource planning and appropriate funding,” states the report.
Clearer communication to consumers explaining decisions should be made, including its implications.
As the ombudsman has gone through some reorganisation to cope with its workload, namely working with consumers to resolve disputes early, this has “come with different risks to service quality”, states the report. As such, it should check decisions made during the time of reorganisation to check they were made in accordance with controls and standards put in place at the time.
While Lloyd made a host of other recommendations, he did say the ombudsman “provides an effective and essential service for many thousands of people”. “But to retain public confidence the [ombudsman] must work hard to continuously improve the service it provides for consumers and businesses.”
Chief ombudsman and chief executive Caroline Wayman said: “We’re grateful to Richard Lloyd for conducting such a thorough review. We’ll be considering carefully what it means for our service, keen to learn from the past so we can do things even better in the future. We will publish an update on our progress by the end of the year.”
Kevin Reed is one of the UK’s most senior accounting and finance journalists. He is a former editor of Accountancy Age and Financial Director, and writes regularly on corporate and professional services governance
Further reading on this topic: