Industry News

The current head of the Nova Scotia Securities Commission replaces Doug Melville, who left the dispute-resolution service earlier this year

By James Langton |

The Ombudsman for Banking Services and Investments (OBSI) announced on Wednesday that Sarah Bradley, the current chairwoman and CEO of the Nova Scotia Securities Commission (NSSC), will be taking over as OBSI's ombudsman and CEO effective Sept. 14.

Bradley succeeds Doug Melville, who left the dispute-resolution service earlier this year to become the principal ombudsman and CEO for the Channel Islands Financial Ombudsman.

"Sarah has proven success operating in complex multi-stakeholder environments and possesses the right mix of experience, empathy and skills to succeed as ombudsman and CEO," says Fernand Bélisle, chairman of OBSI's board, in a statement. "Sarah will deliver on OBSI's commitment to continue providing our participating financial services firms and their customers with the high-quality dispute-resolution services that Canadians have come to expect."

"I am excited to join this dynamic group and look forward to meeting with all of OBSI's stakeholders in the coming months," Bradley adds.

Bradley will be taking over at OBSI at a time when it has been through some significant turmoil, including the withdrawal of a couple of the big banks in recent years and rising opposition from the investment industry, which has resulted in an increasing number of firms refusing to follow its recommendations for investor compensation.

In response, securities regulators have voiced support for OBSI. But while they have expanded its mandate and stepped up oversight, they have not followed through on the recommendations of an independent review, which called for OBSI to be fundamentally reformed, including making its decisions binding.

Instead, OBSI made several changes to its own processes intended to help speed up complaint resolution; OBSI also reformed its terms of reference, giving up the ability to investigate possible systemic issues and complaints involving segregated funds.

Federal authorities also declined to make OBSI the sole dispute-resolution service for the banks, instead creating an approval framework for multiple providers. Earlier this year, OBSI was officially recognized as an external complaints body for the banks.

Investment industry trade group the Investment Industry Association of Canada (IIAC) and the Investment Funds Institute of Canada (IFIC), which represents Canada's investment funds industry, congratulated Bradley on her appointment.

"Sarah Bradley understands the importance of building an effective ombudsman for the investment industry to engender confidence and market participation among individual investors, and for a committed and supportive industry," says Ian Russell, president and CEO of the IIAC, in a statement.

"Ms. Bradley is a highly respected regulator and well experienced in securities regulation, public policy development, business law and governance, business fiduciary obligations and commercial law… This extensive and experienced background brings the needed leadership to guide OBSI through a crucial period of challenging regulatory change, both within the existing regulatory framework and the imminent Capital Markets Regulatory Authority (CMRA)," Russell adds.

"IFIC looks forward to working closely with Ms. Bradley over the coming months and years to advance investor interests," adds Joanne De Laurentiis, IFIC's president and CEO, in a statement. "She brings a wealth of industry knowledge to this role as the outgoing chairwoman and CEO of the Nova Scotia Securities Commission. OBSI achieved a number of milestones under the leadership of former ombudsman Douglas Melville and board chairmain Fernand Bélisle. Ms. Bradley joins OBSI as it is poised to move forward with a broadened mandate and renewed focus."

In addition to leading the NSSC, Bradley is also currently an associate professor at the Schulich School of Law at Dalhousie University. She has a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Toronto, a law degree from Queen's University and a Master of Laws from Harvard Law School. Bradley has also been called to the bar in Ontario, Nova Scotia and New York. She is also president of the board of YWCA Halifax and has served on the boards of several other non-profit organizations.