skip tocontent

corporate plan and 2008/09 budget

January 2008

actions we will take in 2008/09 and beyond

Our caseload expectations are covered by chapter 7. Taking into account the factors outlined in the previous chapter, we will undertake a range of other actions going forward. These include continuing many, and updating some, of the actions outlined in the previous corporate plan, published in January 2007. As in that plan, our actions largely fall into four broad themes: processes and systems; flexible resources; accountability; and serving justice.

processes and systems

Our objective is continuous improvement of our processes and systems, so that they remain capable of delivering a cost-effective redress service which meets ever-rising expectations.

The processes and systems that underpin our service require continuous evaluation and improvement if they are to remain fit-for-purpose and in line with ever-rising customer expectations. These systems and processes must also be capable of dealing with future changes in the balance between complaints concerning different types of products and businesses. We will therefore do the following:

  • We will move towards completion of our new enquiry-handling and case-handling processes and systems. As stated in chapter 2, our aims are to improve the handling of cases (both individually and in bulk); bolster the consistency, quality and user-friendliness of our service for consumers and businesses; and 'future-proof' our systems and processes for the different types of case that might arise.
  • We will increase our business-continuity capability, and our flexibility, by exploring increased electronic-imaging of case files. We will expand the capabilities of our new telephony systems, in order to enhance our customer-contact capacity and flexibility. And we will review our existing IT infrastructure, to ensure it keeps pace with potential future demands for electronic information.
  • Through our sharpening the focus programme, we will continue to focus on the needs of our users - both consumers and businesses. As well as evaluating the initiatives we have already taken to develop relevant skills and to hear more clearly the voice of the user, we will introduce changes to our business process to incorporate the improvements resulting from this programme. The work of our accessibility taskforce and its disability group will also focus on the specific needs of users.
  • We will continue our regular surveys of our customers (both consumers and businesses) to ensure our processes take account of changing issues and the concerns of those who use our service. And we will conduct further awareness research to contribute to the accessibility initiatives.

flexible resources

Our objective is to manage staff and other resources so as to provide an efficient and effective service, irrespective of future fluctuations in numbers and types of cases.

As previously noted, we are facing a reduction in our workload for 2008/09. But sudden changes in workload in specific areas are a likely feature of our future caseload. So as well as restructuring our resources in line with anticipated short-term needs, we must also ensure our systems and processes are flexible and scaleable, and that we have access to appropriate skills and expertise, so that we are prepared for any future sudden changes in workload. Therefore:

  • We will complete our restructuring programme in order to deliver a service that is fit for future needs, while retaining the values and service standards we have worked hard in previous years to achieve.
  • We will continue to keep our organisational structure under review, to ensure both that staff are effectively deployed, in line with changing caseloads, and that the structure is sufficiently flexible to deal with the unexpected.
  • We will continue to develop our capacity for creating tailored processes, in order to deal most effectively and promptly with an increase in surges of complaints on particular topics.
  • We will use our skills database to reinforce our systems for staff development and training. This will enhance our flexibility by enabling an increasing proportion of staff to operate in more than one financial sector.
  • We will continue to examine our costs, to assist in the shaping of the restructuring programme and ensure our expenditure is appropriate for the level of service our stakeholders are entitled to expect.

accountability

Our objective is to enhance dialogue with our stakeholders, so that we remain responsive to their needs and to the public interest, while continuing to provide an impartial service.

As well as maintaining the independence and impartiality of our service in resolving disputes, we need to maintain an effective dialogue with a range of stakeholders. To ensure the effectiveness of this dialogue we will do the following:

  • We will continue the work of our accessibility taskforce and 'joined-up information' taskforce. And we will review our plans in the light of the recommendations from the three-yearly independent external review currently being led by Lord Hunt of Wirral. This may lead to medium- or longer-term changes in the ways we make ourselves visible and accessible to those we serve, and in the ways we use the information and experience gained from our work, for the benefit of consumers, industry and regulators.
  • We will continue to work closely with the FSA in connection with three of its key initiatives: treating customers fairly; more principles-based regulation; and the retail distribution review. Stakeholders have recognised that the existence of the ombudsman service to resolve individual cases enables the FSA to focus its resources in a risk-based and principles-based way. Consistent with this, we will continue to explore ways of enhancing the predictability of our decisions, through the information we publish about cases and outcomes.
  • With the FSA, we will keep under review the funding model for our compulsory jurisdiction. Stakeholders' responses to the 2006 discussion paper on funding for the compulsory jurisdiction indicated broad support for increasing the importance of the case fee in financing the ombudsman service. This does, however, place a greater premium on the ability to predict fairly accurately the number and trend of future cases. In the context of our 2008/09 budget, this issue is considered further in chapter 8.
  • We will continue our range of external liaison activities with businesses and consumers and their representatives. These activities are aimed both at helping to prevent complaints reaching the ombudsman service in the first place, and at increasing awareness of the service among groups of consumers under-represented in our caseload. And our Board has reviewed its committee structure in order to enhance its oversight of our many initiatives for further developing the quality of our service.

serving justice

Our objective is to secure wider public benefits by using our expertise and resources to enhance and extend accessible and effective dispute resolution for financial services and products.

As previously mentioned, the scope of the ombudsman service has progressively been extended to cover a wider range of financial services and products, and further extensions are in prospect.

We already use the expertise and information we have, in order to help businesses and consumers avoid future causes of complaint. This is an area of our work that our current external review is examining in detail.

We also respond positively, wherever possible, to those who are creating dispute-resolution schemes in other UK sectors and abroad and wish to benefit from our expertise in dispute resolution.

  • We will continue to work with the Department of Work and Pensions, the FSA and the Pensions Ombudsman in order to implement the Thornton review's recommendation that the Financial Ombudsman Service and the Pensions Ombudsman should merge.
  • We will continue to cooperate with HM Treasury and the FSA in extending dispute resolution to all types of payment services, in order to fulfil the requirement in the Payment Services Directive that an out-of-court redress system should be put in place.
  • We will also work with HM Treasury and the FSA on other financial areas where extensions to regulation and out-of-court redress are in the pipeline, such as on the sale of travel insurance as part of a package holiday.
  • With the Department of Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform and the OFT, we will prepare for the likely extension of our consumer credit jurisdiction to include complaints about debt administration and credit information services from October 2008.
  • We will continue to provide consultancy to those setting up other out-of-court redress schemes, modelled on the Financial Ombudsman Service, as well as continuing to cooperate with ombudsman colleagues in the British and Irish Ombudsman Association.
  • In Europe, we will continue to work with the European Commission through our membership of the steering committee of FIN-NET, to seek a comprehensive network of redress for cross-border financial disputes in the developing European single market.
image of corporate plan and 2008/09 budget

For printed copies of this or any of our publications, phone 020 7964 0092 or email publications.