corporate plan and 2007/08 budget
how we delivered our corporate plan in 2006/07
The corporate plan we published in January 2006 summarised our overall aims:
- to provide fair, consistent, authoritative and persuasive outcomes to complaints, and be recognised as an expert organisation in consumer dispute-resolution;
- to be demonstrably accessible and impartial, and give a good standard of customer service to consumers and to businesses providing financial services;
- to have well-trained and highly-motivated staff; be efficient, effective and flexible; and make good use of technology;
- to coordinate our work with associated regulatory and dispute-resolution bodies, so far as is consistent with our independent roles;
- to be open about our work and governance, and ensure stakeholders understand our role and have confidence in our work; and
- to provide a comprehensive service covering, as far as practicable, activities that consumers identify as financial.
These aims led to the adoption of a comprehensive agenda for delivery over the following three years. Things we did during 2006/07 towards delivering that agenda included:
- In close liaison with the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and the OFT, we prepared for the implementation of the new consumer credit jurisdiction from 6 April 2007. This included: consulting on and making rules for the new jurisdiction; communicating information about the new jurisdiction to the industry and to consumer bodies; training our staff; and adapting our business processes and IT systems.
- Jointly with the FSA, we started a review of the funding arrangements for our existing compulsory jurisdiction. Following discussions with those affected, we published a wide-ranging discussion paper. We are currently considering the responses to that, with a view to issuing a further paper on the way forward during the first half of 2007.
- We worked closely with the FSA on topics which affected both our dispute-resolution role and the FSA’s regulatory role. This included operating and raising the profile of the ‘wider-implications process’, which was introduced by the FSA and the ombudsman service to general acclaim. It also involved assisting the FSA in its preparations for a move towards more principles-based regulation.
- Discussions were opened with firms and other stakeholders about how to increase the information we publish about our approach to cases and about outcomes – while continuing to strike an appropriate balance between responding to requests that we should say more, to enhance the predictability of our approach, and avoiding the appearance of acting as a quasi-regulator.
- We continued to review our enquiry-handling and case-handling processes and systems, and introduced improvements enhancing their user-friendliness for consumers and for businesses providing financial services in general, as well as their adaptability for different types of case. We further extended the scope and coverage of our quality assurance systems, and we updated the methods by which we survey consumer satisfaction with our services.
- Our ‘smaller-businesses taskforce’ coordinated a number of measures to make matters simpler for the vast majority of smaller financial services businesses which seldom deal with the ombudsman service, and which need guiding through our process when they do. These included changes in process, production of special publications and the publishing of specially-structured explanatory material on our website.
- We implemented improved systems for monitoring and evaluating management information, which have enhanced our ability to identify areas for priority attention.
To help us match resources to workload in changing times, we made further improvements to our model for forecasting future work. This includes reviewing the stages at which cases are likely to be resolved and the staff numbers required to handle the work effectively.
- We extended the technical skills of our staff so that a larger proportion could deal with complaints from more than one financial sector. This included a range of training initiatives and the introduction of a skills database. To improve flexibility of resources, we used contract staff for some work that is likely to decline. Additionally, we introduced more robust, representative and business-focused arrangements for staff consultation and communication.
- We started the planning stage of a significant medium-term programme to introduce new IT and telephony systems with increased flexibility, security, resilience and scalability. And we reviewed and tested our disaster recovery and business continuity plans, to ensure they remain robust despite new and increased risks.
The year has also seen continued work on a number of initiatives aimed primarily at improving the output of our existing processes. These have included:
- targeted initiatives to speed up how we resolve longer-running cases;
- improvements in the time taken before a case is allocated to an adjudicator, in parallel with improvements to the way consumers are kept informed;
- prioritising urgent cases, while maintaining different service levels for mortgage endowment and other cases; and
- external liaison work designed to help reduce the causes of complaints and encourage the resolution of more complaints before they reach the ombudsman service.
This external liaison work included: answering more than 20,000 enquiries to our technical advice desk (for businesses providing financial services and for consumer advisers); speaking at more than 130 conferences and training workshops; dealing with more than 500 enquiries from Members of Parliament and over 3,500 calls from the media; and issuing more than 2,500,000 leaflets and other publications.
We have maintained close relations with other bodies which have similar public-interest responsibilities. These include the government departments and regulators most directly connected with financial services and consumer credit – principally HM Treasury, the DTI,
the FSA and the OFT.
Public bodies we work closely with include other government departments and redress schemes (nationally and internationally) who look to the Financial Ombudsman Service model in designing other redress schemes. On cross-border issues within the European single market, we have maintained close contact with the European Commission – and we are represented on the steering committee which is leading the updating and extension of FIN-NET, the European network of financial dispute-resolution bodies.