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corporate plans and budgets » Plan & Budget 2003/04 - business plans

insurance and mortgage intermediaries

3.1 Insurance and mortgage intermediaries have the option of being covered by our service from April 2003. We do not expect the majority to join until October 2004, when they become authorised by the FSA. But we need to prepare ourselves for their entry. At present, our database of firms covered by the ombudsman service comprises around 10,000 authorised firms and 32,000 appointed representatives. We estimate the number of potential new firms - those not covered at present - to be in the region of 35,000, so the entry of insurance and mortgage intermediaries will have a significant effect on the overall number of participating firms.

document imaging/firms' extranet

3.2 Our work in assessing and resolving complaints involves dealing with large amounts of correspondence and other documents from customers and firms. We plan to reduce our dependence on paper files by starting to scan material into our electronic database and to exchange information electronically wherever possible. During the coming year we aim to build and pilot-test a secure electronic information exchange with one or two large firms, with a view to making this more widely available in due course.

knowledge management

3.3 Our decision to move away from casework divisions structured around the former ombudsman schemes led to our setting up a 'knowledge management' project. Our new casework structure requires our staff to develop their skills in dealing with complaints about a variety of products. We will use knowledge management to create an easily-accessible knowledge base. This will help staff build on their existing expertise and develop a full understanding of those areas and issues that had previously been less familiar to them. Knowledge management will also help us to ensure consistency, as it will enable us to pull together information about our approach to complaints in all the different sectors.

training

3.4 Training continues to be a priority. We will focus on the need to cross-train our staff on a wide range of products, so that we have the necessary flexibility to handle surges of work in different areas.

conclusion

3.5 We have demonstrated our ability to improve productivity and timeliness while, at the same time, handling a significant increase in the volume of complaints. Our challenge now is to continue these improvements in productivity and timeliness while maintaining, or further improving, the quality of our work.