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1 role of independent assessor I'm delighted that you re interested in the ombudsman service and the post of independent assessor. I thought you might like a note that goes beyond the formal job spec and tries to give you a feel for the service and for the role supporting it. I came new to the service when I joined as chairman in February this year. I d never used it and, frankly, didn t know much about it. But, a year on, I m enjoying the job and the challenges tremendously. There are a lot of reasons for this. First, that what we do genuinely matters. People can get frustrated and perplexed when they can t resolve complaints with their bank, insurer or building society. We sort things out and that doesn t mean always in their favour, as we re genuinely neutral and that s a huge relief for them. The letters we get from people, including those who lose, as well as those whose complaints we uphold, show we make a real difference to their lives. And it s a lot of lives. Last year, we helped nearly 1.5 million people who got in touch with us, and handled over 220,000 formal complaints. It s a bit of a growth industry, as we succeed in making more people aware of what our free service can offer, and as the sheer number of complaints and issues grows. We currently have over 1,500 individual disputes to resolve every single day, spanning every area of financial services from payday loans to mortgages, spread betting and payment protection insurance (PPI). We ve had to grow, too, to cope with the demand: from 300 people 12 years ago, when we were set up, to around 3,000 today. The second big reason why I enjoy it is that I ve quite honestly never worked in an organisation that was so strongly values-driven and true to those values. It s easy to sound a bit dewy-eyed about that; but wherever I go in the service I find people who are genuinely committed to doing the right thing for our customers and who treat knowledge as something to be shared, rather than as a source of power. It s an organisation with a terrific feel to it and where people are always looking for ways to do better. That s where you d come in as independent assessor. It s really important that, if customers feel that our handling of their complaint (as opposed to the actual outcome) has been flawed, they should have someone independent to turn to if they re still not page 1

2 satisfied once we ve looked into it. The independent assessor provides that last resort, and it s a role that s hugely important to us, both in demonstrating our commitment to customer needs and in enabling us to learn when things go wrong and to do better in the future. That means we need someone who can communicate fair and objective assessments in a crystal-clear way to customers and who while preserving the distance necessary for true independence can work closely with the service in feeding back to us both lessons from particular cases and general trends, to help us in our quest for constant improvement. So what we are looking for in the independent assessor? You'll have an analytical mind and be good at problem-solving, which will help you to deal fairly with genuine grievances about service standards while avoiding discussions about the merits of cases. You'll have excellent communication skills and be able to provide impartial feedback to both the customer making the complaint and us. You'll have a flexible and pragmatic approach to your work and be able to work under pressure. This isn t a job for just anyone. It s for someone who cares about making a difference, someone who has the skills and experience to be the ultimate level of appeal for customers who feel dissatisfied with the service they have received, to balance the facts and make appropriate recommendations. It s a really rewarding job; and if that s the way you feel after reading this and the job specification, I hope you ll put in for it. Nick Montagu, chairman page 2

3 who we are We re an independent, not-for-profit organisation set up to sort out disputes between consumers and financial services businesses fairly, reasonably and impartially. We were set up by government in 2000 as a statutory alternative to the courts. We re funded by financial services. We ve expanded significantly since 2000 and our remit now covers nearly all financial services and products from spread betting to pet insurance. We employ around 3,000 people and more than 2 million customers contact us each year. We are, quite simply, the place consumers can come if they have a dispute with their financial service provider that they can t resolve themselves. like to know more? We publish our plans for a changing world at the start of each financial year. This sets out the challenges we predict, the priorities we agree and the key measures we set ourselves for the year. Our annual review looks back at the past year, with facts, figures and information about our work and the trends in complaints. To find out more about the types of complaints we deal with, see our regular newsletter, ombudsman news, which includes case studies and case highlights. our values We believe we work best when we keep in mind what s important to us. And we stand by our values in all areas of our work. What matters to us is that: we do the right thing we treat our customers well and respect their needs we do what we say we ll do we re inquisitive and build everyone s knowledge diversity and fairness at the heart of everything we do We want to ensure we re reaching out to the widest range of people in how we recruit and in the services we offer. Our service is for everyone. We aim to be accessible and to meet all the needs of our people and customers. So please let us know if you d like information in a different format or language, or if you d like us to adapt the way we communicate with you. page 3

4 independent assessor reports to the board of the Financial Ombudsman Service location London docklands (at least 1 day a week in the office) + homeworking salary 112k (pro rata for 2 or 3 day week) about the job the final step in the complaints process The Financial Ombudsman Service aims to be effective, efficient and to deliver the highest standards of customer service. In order to do that, it needs to be open to feedback, to learn from its mistakes and to reinforce good service. The organisation has an internal service complaint process and the independent assessor is the final step. an independent view on complaints handling The independent assessor reports to the board and is not a member of ombudsman service staff. The principal duty is to reach an independent view on whether the ombudsman service provided good service in its practical handling of a complaint about a financial services business. The independent assessor may make recommendations for redress by the ombudsman service if the standard of service has caused avoidable distress and inconvenience. A complaint of poor service does not include the merits of a complaint about a financial services business, nor whether a complaint is within the ombudsman service s jurisdiction. the scope of the job You will: be the final arbiter of complaints about the level of service provided once the ombudsman service has had a reasonable chance to respond to a service complaint prepare reports on your findings, tailored to the circumstances of the complaint where appropriate, make recommendations for redress, communicating your reasons clearly to the complainant and the ombudsman service page 4

5 provide summary feedback to the board and to the ombudsman service executive, highlighting areas of concern, examples of good practice and any emerging trends, to help ensure that the ombudsman service learns from service complaints compile an annual review for the board covering the number and nature of complaints received and reviewed and the recommendations made for inclusion in the financial ombudsman service directors report and accounts You ll be supported by a full time senior caseworker and a full time administrator, both of whom will be seconded to you by the board. You ll also be supported by the ombudsman service s infrastructure, though with appropriate guards to protect your independence. about you your experience you ll probably have significant experience of investigatory case-handling, perhaps in a legal environment, or in a dispute-resolution, regulatory or public body experience of ombudsmanry is not essential but would be an advantage, and you should have worked in an environment which prides itself on customer service excellence you ll have worked at a senior level with significant executive and board experience you ll have a strong educational record, in any subject, to degree level or equivalent you ll be IT literate and comfortable with handling and analysing data superb analytical and problem solving skills able to quickly get to the heart of an issue you ll be able to assess service complaints promptly, getting to the heart of the issue, and demonstrating sound and robust judgement excellent organisational skills you'll be someone who s extremely well organised and who understands that deadlines matter you ll be able to filter eligible complaints from those not within your remit and prioritise your time appropriately outstanding communication skills you ll have experience of communicating appropriately with a wide range of complainants, adjusting your style to meet their needs page 5

6 you ll be skilled in preparing evidence-based written opinions to reassure the complainant and the ombudsman service that you have examined the complaint thoroughly and have reached a balanced conclusion aligned with the values of the ombudsman service your role is to help put things right where the ombudsman service has not provided a good enough quality of service. It s essential that your values align with those of the ombudsman service, with a strong focus on justice effective in an independent role you ll relish the challenges of independence, in a role where you won t always be giving the complainant or the ombudsman service the news that they want to hear you ll have the skills to make independence an asset, understanding that having influence requires a collaborative working style and is based on respect good with people and finally, you need to be someone who is good at getting the best out of your own staff in a busy and high pressure working environment page 6

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So please let us know if you d like information in a different format or language, or if you d like us to adapt the way we communicate with you.

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