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new chief financial ombudsman appointed

11 January 2010

The board of the Financial Ombudsman Service today announced that it has appointed Natalie Ceeney CBE as chief ombudsman and chief executive – to succeed Walter Merricks who stepped down in October 2009 after ten years in the post.

Natalie Ceeney will join as chief ombudsman in March 2010 from the National Archives, where she is chief executive and Keeper of the Public Records. She was formerly director of operations and services at the British Library – and previously led strategic consultancy projects across a range of industries at McKinsey & Company.

Welcoming the appointment, Sir Christopher Kelly, chairman of the Financial Ombudsman Service, said:

Natalie Ceeney takes up the position of chief ombudsman at a turning point for the ombudsman service. Set up ten years ago to deal with 30,000 complaints annually, we are now gearing up for an annual workload of 200,000 cases. This includes a million phone calls a year from consumers with financial problems of every kind, ranging from hire purchase to self-invested pensions, money transfer to motorbike insurance. To handle recent major surges in complaints, we now have in place some 900 adjudicators and over 40 specialist ombudsmen – and operate on a £100 million budget.

This takes us to a new and very different stage of the ombudsman service's development. The challenges and demands now facing us are ones that Natalie will be ideally positioned to meet – with her extensive experience in strategic change management and engagement with a range of government departments and stakeholders. She is an outstanding individual and my board and I look forward to working with her.

Newly appointed chief ombudsman, Natalie Ceeney, said:

I am proud to be joining the Financial Ombudsman Service at such a critical point in its history. Under Walter Merricks' ten years as the first chief ombudsman, the service has firmly established itself in the role intended for it by Parliament. The exceptional demand placed on the ombudsman service in recent times clearly reflects public regard for the ombudsman as the independent, impartial and accessible provider of justice.

I look forward to working with colleagues at the ombudsman service – as well as with all the ombudsman's customers and stakeholders – to ensure we build on existing successes in providing access to redress and helping to underpin confidence in financial services.

The post of chief ombudsman was advertised publicly in September 2009 – following consultation with key consumer organisations and industry bodies on the personal and professional attributes that stakeholders believed the ideal candidate for the post should possess.

Until Natalie Ceeney formally takes up the position of chief ombudsman on 22 March 2010, David Thomas will continue to carry out the responsibilities of the post on an interim basis.

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photo: Natalie Ceeney CBE

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