From the Regulators

The purpose of the evaluation is to determine whether OBSI is fulfilling its obligations as a dispute resolution service for the investment industry

By James Langton |

The Ombudsman for Banking Services and Investments (OBSI) on Wednesday issued an invitation to comment on an independent review of the investment industry's dispute resolution service.

The review, which is underway now, aims to deliver its recommendations in the spring. Its scope "excludes banking-related complaints," OBSI says in a statement.

Instead, the review focuses on OBSI's role in the investment industry, which has recently been expanded from mutual fund dealers and investment dealers to include all registered firms. The issues to be examined in the review include OBSI's mandate, governance, methodologies, independence, accessibility, transparency and accountability, and fees and resources. It will also assess the extent to which OBSI meets international benchmarks for industry-based dispute resolution.

A previous review of OBSI, which was delivered in 2011, recommended sweeping changes to the service's procedures, including that its compensation decisions be made mandatory, and that an appeal process be developed. However, many of these recommendations have not been taken up by the regulators that oversee OBSI. As well, investor advocates have complained that the service has been undermined by growing industry resistance.

Since that review, OBSI has initiated a number of operational changes, revised its mandate, and vastly expanded its membership under expanded regulatory oversight. In September 2015, it also welcomed a new CEO, Sarah Bradley.

See: Newsmaker: Trust is key for the new head of OBSI

See: OBSI's new chief must transform the end game

The current review will examine whether the organization is fulfilling its obligations under its new oversight arrangements with securities regulators, and whether any reforms to its operations or procedures are necessary.

The review will include both consultations with the industry and investors, and an analysis of data, including a sample of cases and its key performance statistics. It will also examine OBSI's dispute resolution and governance processes. The review will seek input from investment firms, consumer and investor groups, industry trade groups, and regulators, along with OBSI's board, its consumer and investor advisory council, and the ombudservice's staff.

Submissions to the consultation are due by Feb. 19.  An issues paper and terms of reference to aid the comment submission process can be found here.

The evaluation is expected to conclude with a final report by mid May, preceded by a draft report by March 31.

Deborah Battell, a former New Zealand Banking Ombudsman, director of Fair Trading and Competition enforcement at the New Zealand Commerce Commission, and a senior consultant at KPMG, is heading up the review.