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Financial Services analysis: With the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) handling more than 2 million complaints and queries a year, Tony Boorman, deputy chief ombudsman at the FOS, discusses the experiences of 2013 and what financial services firms can do to build consumer trust in 2014.
How do you feel the sector is faring in the eyes of the public?
People's trust in financial businesses certainly seems to hit new low points every time you read the papers. Good news about consumer finance is short on the ground. A lot of that bad news has little if any impact on the real service that you and I receive as customers of insurers, banks and advisers. However, there must be a concern that for many customers it seems that this is an industry that cannot always be trusted.
Trust in any relationship is easy to lose and hard to re-establish. We see the impact every day in our complaint post bag: 'can I trust my provider when it tells me that I have been treated fairly--after all, this is the institution that has been all over the papers because...'
I think there is general agreement that after the experiences of the past few years the key challenge for the whole industry is to begin to restore that trust and rebuild often distinctly tattered corporate reputations. That won't be easy. There is certainly no magic bullet but, in our experience, businesses that listen carefully and openly to unhappy customers can be ahead of the curve. In contrast, those that resort to law (seldom an attractive way of relating to consumers, I fear), or 'procedures', will miss the valuable lessons that are there to learnt.
Do you feel the Ombudsman has sufficient powers to deal with regulatory breaches?
The recent amendments to the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000 gave the FOS important new formal responsibilities to alert the regulator to major problems. Feeding back to the industry and its regulators what we see has always been an important part of our role that we take seriously--but it's good to see it underpinned in statute.
I welcome the clear readiness
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