What do you love about your role?
The thing that gets me out of bed every morning is that I like a challenge and making a difference. If we can sort out a problem for one customer and help them navigate the banking system, that is great, and if we can actually prevent others from having the same problem, that is even better.
I feel like my role gives me a really good mix of intellectual and people challenges. Banking products and services are complex and ever-changing, so misunderstandings will always occur. If we can empathise with the parties involved, give it a fair and robust independent review, and explain how things have gone wrong, that is a rewarding experience.
I have a real passion for justice. Providing a simple and speedy way to get people fair outcomes means I’m doing my part in making a positive difference.
What in your role do you find challenging?
We’re a small, agile team and we set ourselves ambitious targets for responsiveness and customer service. When our workloads fluctuate it can sometimes feel a bit like feast or famine, and I need to balance delivery and excellence against staff wellbeing and the risk of complaint fatigue. But over time we’ve found that there are some good strategies for working around those challenges – having team members who can flex across more than one function, ruthless prioritisation and a strong team culture certainly helps.
There are also some good challenges around stakeholder management and influence at times, with banks, customers and the team. But those are the challenges I particularly enjoy. Listening carefully, understanding all of the issues and flexing when we need to goes a long way.
Tell us about the journey your team has been on towards modern Ombudsmanship?
Just over 25 years ago, the banking industry created the scheme as a free and independent place for people to take their banking concerns. It was a bold step as it meant customers could raise issues they wouldn’t have had the time or resources to pursue through the courts.
And the scheme offers more flexibility than the courts too. The scheme has the freedom to apply best practice, and to look at what is fair and reasonable – while still being guided by the law. Complaints are often resolved by facilitation, either before or during the formal investigation stage. Even disputes that go to an investigation and formal decision are dealt with comparatively swiftly.
So in many ways the scheme was a ground breaking move by the industry to ensure fairness for all banking customers.
These days the scheme has evolved into what we think is the modern approach to complaints resolution. Our strategy is based on a dual approach to resolution and prevention. So we not only resolve issues for individual customers; we take the learnings from our cases and share them more widely so problems can be prevented in the first place.
We also aim to take the bureaucracy out of complaints. We use plain English and a fresh, friendly approach to all of our communications so that process feels accessible to as many people as possible.
What have you learnt as a leader?
In a small team doing a lot of things, I’ve learnt that it’s really important for people to truly be connected to what they do. I’m lucky that my team are so engaged in doing what is fair and in nutting out the challenges. I usually know the team is in good spirits if they’re still talking about cases at Friday night drinks.
For me personally, I find I have to balance the way I spend my time and thought leadership carefully so I can get through all of the issues that come my way in a day and still feel like I’m keeping up with my own expectations of pace and excellence. We all get on well as a team and people are quick to give a helping hand whenever it’s needed. I find that appreciating that loyalty to the cause and generosity of spirit can get you through on the days when you feel you’re not winning.