Staff training and management capability must be front and centre in a full cultural reform of the Financial Services Ombudsman, says former Which? chief executive Richard Lloyd.
MPs on the Treasury Select Committee met to discuss Lloyd’s independent review into the FOS yesterday.
The review was carried out after a Channel 4 documentary in March claiming FOS staff did not have sufficient training to handle complex cases adequately.
Two years on from an internal restructuring program designed for the FOS by PwC, in which fewer specialists are kept in silos at a cost to FOS and complaints are triaged quicker, Lloyd says some staff were not in agreement with changes.
Previously, the FOS would only allow specialists in some niches, say certain types of protection or insurance cover, to adjudicate claims in that area, keeping them on retaininer even when there were no cases to handle.
Lloyd says: “It was evident early on in the restructuring that a large number of staff really weren’t willing, but there was a need to keep a lot of staff on to handle case work. Unusually, people who weren’t happy in what they were doing were in fact asked to stay on to handle the casework.
“The combination of the way the model was introduced and the high productivity targets were interpreted by staff as being all about productivity and quantity and not about quality.”
Lloyd said it was clear there would be resistance to any change in which staff were asked to alter working processes significantly.
An anonymous complaints email set up also highlights staff mistrust in senior management.
There are around 3,500 employees at FOS, many of whom Lloyd confirmed to the committee believed restructuring was too “top-down.”
He says: “It should have been obvious to the leadership that there was going to be that high level of resistance and there should have been more time in place to persuade people to demonstrate the value of the new model first.”
Lloyd confirmed his recommendation that a variety of people be brought into any re-design moving forwards.
He says: “I think it’s right the FOS keeps modernising and doing better for consumers and need to respond positively to the recommendations made.
“The internal message is that it is important for staff to take their time to get cases right, it’s not about casework target numbers.”