The Financial Ombudsman Service is at a “pivotal point” of change, according to interim chief executive and chief ombudsman Nausicaa Delfas.
She said one of her main priorities upon joining in May 2021 was to initiate the board-commissioned independent periodic review which resulted in the publication of an action plan earlier this month.
The Fos has faced several challenges and criticisms in recent months.
MPs have expressed concerns that the Fos is funding its expenditure through its reserves while it emerged earlier this year that the Fos was offering its staff “voluntary overtime” to tackle a backlog of cases.
Speaking to FTAdviser, Delfas said: “By taking a robust and proactive approach, and by sharing insights, we can prevent complaints and unfairness arising, solving problems together, resulting in a better financial services market for everybody.
“We are also committed to change our target operating model to ensure we are more efficient and use technology and digital better, so that customers can choose how they interact with us.
"The Fos is at a pivotal point. We have the opportunity to reset and move forward. We are determined to seize it and deliver a better service for customers navigating a rapidly changing financial services market."
Delfas explained that the work to improve the Fos would mean changing the way it operates because cases had become more diverse.
She highlighted the growth of cryptocurrency, investment platforms and e-payments, alongside an increase in fraud and scams, as examples of the rapidly changing financial services industry.
The Fos plans to improve technology and digital to ensure there was more choice for individuals and businesses to interact in different ways, for example, by uploading documents and evidence through a digital portal.
“We will use our insights and intelligence to work together with industry, regulators, and consumer groups to solve problems and prevent harm to consumers, making it a better market for everybody,” she said.
“We will also look at the way we are funded, making revisions where needed to ensure a service that is sustainable for the future.”
Delfas added: “Our strategy has been evolving over the latter part of 2021 and we have already made changes to go further and faster in clearing our backlog of cases and bringing down waiting times for customers.
“The number of cases in the backlog has nearly halved, but we know we need to do more to ensure every customer gets a fair and reasonable resolution quickly.”
Delfas said her focus was to ensure the Fos continued to meet the needs of its customers and was adapting to changing demand and emerging issues in a sustainable way.
She said: “Looking back at 2021, we have seen the high volume of payment protection insurance complaints tailing off, with the Fos having dealt with more than two million complaints over the past decade. But there were also trends that we have seen before that continued this year.