Merricks, who helped set up the FOS 10 years ago, is moving on to chair the Office of the Health Professions Adjudicator this autumn.
The non-executive board of the Financial Ombudsman Service, led by chairman Sir Christopher Kelly, will shortly begin recruiting for Walter Merricks’ successor as chief ombudsman, including advertising the post publicly.
Under his tenure as chief ombudsman, the Financial Ombudsman Service has handled over five million consumer enquiries and resolved 750,000 disputes between consumers and financial businesses. Last year it dealt with a record 127,471 complaints, with an average staff complement of 865.
Merricks says: “A strong independent service providing justice in the field of consumer financial disputes is needed now more than ever.
“The ombudsman service has found a permanent place in the consumer-protection framework for financial services, and I am confident that the organisation will continue to be valued by financial firms and by consumers alike.
“Our service is not just for consumers who find themselves in dispute. Research continues to show that more than half of UK consumers say the existence of the ombudsman gives them confidence in financial services.”
Ruth Whitehead Associates principal Ruth Whitehead says: “He’s chucked a hot potato up in the air and we don’t know who’s going to catch it on the way down.
“Regulation wise, I think the FSA and the Ombudsman are trying to wriggle out of responsibilities they may have and I don’t envy either people in charge of those organisations. Somebody’s given him some very good career advice”.