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Merricks departure as Financial Ombudsman leaves a very big hole to fill but a decent legacy

Walter Merricks' decision to step down as chief ombudsman at the Financial Ombudsman Service does, for once, merit the description of being the end of an era. He has been the only holder of that post in the ten years the organisation has been running, having held a similar position with the Insurance Ombudsman Bureau for some years before that. The IOB was merged into the FOS in the wake of the passing of the Financial Services and Markets Act and the creation of the Financial Services Authority.
He has done an exceptional job, although you will find critics both among consumer groups and industry sectors, especially independent financial advisers. Some consumer organisations have maintained a persistent criticism that the FOS was too close to the industries it adjudicated on while IFAs frequently lashed out at him for being a consumer champion. He was neither, although the figures in terms of the percentage of complaints upheld suggest that the consumer groups might have more justification for their criticism. If IFAs really feel Walter Merricks was a "consumer champion" they had better hope most fervently that they do not get a real champion of consumer rights as his successor.
Of course, not everything the FOS did was perfect or above but criticism but Walter Merricks was always aware of that and submitted his organisation to independent review on more than one occasion, most recently at the beginning of last year when Lord Hunt of Wirral was asked to make recommendations for improving the FOS. It was an admirably open and engaging exercise (to which the All Party Parliamentary Group on Insurance & Financial Services contributed one of the most substantial set of recommendations) and the changes that followed will ensure that the FOS remains fit for purpose for some years to come. That is not a bad legacy for Walter Merricks to leave.

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