The Financial Ombudsman Service has admitted to having high attrition rates, putting it down to “throwing new people in at the deep end” as it looks to enhance its training programme.
Speaking at a session with the Treasury Committee today (February 9), Baroness Zahida Manzoor, chairperson at the Fos said when she took over in her role in 2019, around 45 per cent of investigators had been with the service for less than two years.
She said: “Our attrition rate is high and I do think that we have thrown new people into the deep end a little bit.
“I think the organisational design that the team are looking at and developing will alleviate that problem a lot.
“Some of our most experienced and highly trained ombudsmen had their time taken up training these individuals so it is very important that we get it right.”
Nausicaa Delfas, interim chief executive and chief ombudsman at the Fos, added that historically, people were trained on all areas of financial services.
But to streamline this, the Fos focused the training in a particular area so that a case handler can pass through the academy and build their confidence and expertise in the area they have been trained in.
But the Fos is looking to change its training structure going forward.
Delfas said: "Going forward through our action plan, we want to enhance our training capabilities so that we can train more people at all levels as well."
Manzoor argued that the attrition rates were not down to pay, stating that Fos pays a very high level within the top quartile for benefits.
“We want to make sure we're attracting skilled and experienced people, not just from the finance sector, because we are an alternative dispute resolution and so therefore, a lot of common sense approach is also just as valuable as the intellectual rigour and capability.”
The Treasury Committee questioned both Manzoor and Delfas on how the Fos is tackling the attrition rate, as well as how it is aiding staff with stressful working conditions and hybrid working.
Delfas said: “We will look at the way in which we attract and retain people, and we expect that the changes that we are making will actually make things more satisfying and make the roles more satisfying for people.
“We look very carefully at [the attrition] and seek to address it in the way that we recruit in the way we train and so forth. It's an important marker for us.”
The interim chief explained that dealing with the stress is part of the training that it provides at the outset and all case handlers are trained on dealing with customers who may be in distress or who may be particularly vulnerable.
“We need to close the cost and revenue gap”
MPs also questioned the Fos on its recently proposed action plan, which sets out strategic and operational changes and its leadership’s assessment of the current state of the organisation.