30 June 2009
Walter Merricks, chief ombudsman at the Financial Ombudsman Service, announced today that he would be stepping down – after ten years in the post which have seen him set up and run what has grown to become the world's largest ombudsman scheme.
Under his tenure as chief ombudsman, the Financial Ombudsman Service has handled over five million consumer enquiries and resolved 750,000 disputes between consumers and financial businesses. Last year it dealt with a record 127,471 complaints, with an average staff complement of 865.
Announcing his plans to step down as chief ombudsman, Walter Merricks said:
It has been a privilege to lead this organisation and its excellent people – but it is now time for me to move on.
A strong independent service providing justice in the field of consumer financial disputes is needed now more than ever. The ombudsman service has found a permanent place in the consumer-protection framework for financial services, and I am confident that the organisation will continue to be valued by financial firms and by consumers alike.
Our service is not just for consumers who find themselves in dispute. Research continues to show that more than half of UK consumers say the existence of the ombudsman gives them confidence in financial services.
Walter Merricks plans to leave the ombudsman service in the autumn, to become the first chair of the Office of the Health Professions Adjudicator (OHPA) – the new statutory organisation being set up, under the Health and Social Care Act 2008, as the single independent body to adjudicate in respect of cases of "fitness to practice" referred to it by the regulators of healthcare professionals.
The non-executive board of the Financial Ombudsman Service, led by chairman Sir Christopher Kelly, will shortly begin recruiting for Walter Merricks' successor as chief ombudsman, including advertising the post publicly.