The Financial Ombudsman Service’s chief executive is stepping down after a seven-year period in which payment protection insurance (PPI) cases peaked before finally winding down last year.
Caroline Wayman said in a statement “the time is right” to step down as the service reaches a pivotal point; in 2021 the FOS expects to receive its final PPI cases.
Wayman added: “As nations, organisations and individuals, we are contemplating a landscape shaped and forever changed by a global pandemic. It’s against this backdrop, that the service is embarking on the next phase of its journey and it’s time for me to do the same.”
The Consumer Credit Trade Association (CCTA), which represents lenders affected by claims management companies (CMCs) chasing cases to take to the ombudsman, issued a statement on the departure.
The trade body said: “It is no secret that we have long been concerned about the management of the Financial Ombudsman Service. Our most recent concerns have been about the organisation’s finances - both the funding model and runaway spending.
“Just as important is that we tackle CMCs’ activities. Regulators have identified cases of fraudulent activity, the misrepresentation of individuals and the misuse of their data. Yet, the FOS seems happy to encourage them and give them the benefit of the doubt."
Each time a CMC takes a case to the FOS which is taken forward, (which happens in vast numbers), lenders have to pay a fee to the ombudsman. CMCs have fuelled the rise of cases against Amigo Loans, in particular, which topped a league table of complaints based on the recent FOS numbers. These figures show which firms had the most cases in H2 last year.
The annual budget for FOS also shows the service received 1,558 complaints about CMCs through 2020/21, and it expects another 1,000 during this fiscal year.
On the search for a successor for the FOS, the CCTA added: "The next chief executive must ensure the ombudsman provides an impartial service that works for consumers and firms. The FOS needs to help tackle bad practice by CMCs and ensure that customer data is protected and not misused.
“For firms, there needs to be a consistency of approach and better understanding of consumers, products and the challenges for firms”.
However, reflecting on Wayman’s tenure, FOS chairman Baroness Zahida Manzoor said: “Caroline’s departure comes at the end of a long career, during which time she’s played a key role in significant milestones in the service’s history.
“Most recently, Caroline has, of course, been steering the service through its response to Covid-19, ensuring operational resilience and balancing the dual responsibilities of serving customers and supporting staff, during these most challenging of times.”
The appointment of the chief ombudsman and chief executive is made by the FOS board. An open process for recruiting a successor will begin shortly.
In an interview with Wayman in 2017 for Credit Strategy, she said lenders could do more to intervene earlier to resolve complaints.