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Banking Ombudsman Scheme Celebrates 25 Years

Vision, vishing – and venison: the Banking Ombudsman Scheme celebrates 25 years

When Gisborne man Bob couldn’t resolve a longstanding complaint with his bank, he turned to the Banking Ombudsman Scheme for help. Bob’s story is included in a video the scheme is using to celebrate its 25th anniversary.

Bob was so grateful for the help he received that he offered the team some venison. The offer was politely declined. The scheme is, after all, a free service.

Bob’s gesture is a good indication of the sort of impact achieved over the years.

The scheme was a pioneering step for consumer protection in 1992. And it was a step the banks took upon themselves, well before legislation in 2008 required all financial services to be part of an independent financial dispute resolution scheme.

The anniversary video clips point out that the scheme had to work hard in the early days to establish its independence and authority. Some banks struggled at being held to account – a far cry from banks’ attitude today. Banks recognise that an independent ombudsman service promotes high standards and builds trust in the sector.

“The scheme’s vision is simply expressed: to support better banking,” says Banking Ombudsman Nicola Sladden.

“Our silver anniversary is an opportunity to reflect on the work we’ve done and how this work has changed, and also show why our work will continue to be relevant and useful to customers and banks in a digital age.

“We provide customers with a simple, speedy and independent means of sorting out complaints they might have with their banks. We make life easier for customers if things go wrong. We help put things right.”

Since 1992, the scheme has helped 78,000 people, and facilitated the payment of $38.9 million in compensation to customers.

Nicola says the scheme itself has evolved as banking has gone through massive technological and regulatory changes.

“In the early 1990s, before most people had even heard of the internet, we dealt with a lot of complaints about cheques.

“As cheque usage has declined, and banking has become much more digital and mobile, our focus has changed, too. New technology gives rise to new problems. Disputes about phishing, smashing and vishing are on the rise.

“Prevention and real-time resolution have become the mantra in recent times. We aim to head off problems before they escalate.

“We are still there to work with customers who have complaints they’ve been unable to resolve directly with their bank. We’ve also developed a strong advisory role, giving practical advice on everything from protecting yourself against scams and keeping PIN numbers and passwords safe to advice on children’s accounts and deceased estates.

“We’ve built up a store of insights along the way, and through our website and other communications we want to share it as widely as possible. We hope our silver anniversary provides another platform for this.

“The scheme’s website features summaries of hundreds of cases we’ve worked on.”

Nicola says the scheme’s work remains relevant and vital, even as the banking and consumer landscape continues to change. New technology gives rise to new problems.

“Whatever the advances in technology, people will always be at the heart of banking.

“The scheme has survived and thrived, and dealt with disruptions as diverse as the global financial crisis in 2008 and the Wellington earthquakes in 2013 and 2016.

“We think that role, and the efforts of everyone who’s worked at the scheme in its first 25 years, is well worth celebrating.”


ENDS


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