I was interested to read the comment last week of the Chairman of the Financial Services Commission, Markus Killick, on the need of a mature financial market such as Gibraltar to have a Financial Ombudsman.
By coincidence I was contacted two weeks ago by people who bank on the Rock asking me could I give them a contact for such a person. I thought about it and suggested they contact the FSC and the Government’s own consumer service. In the event I understand they contacted both, received a reply from neither, and ended up closing their account.
The point is there are two aspects to the day to day banking and investment services in Gibraltar. The first is Gibraltarians themselves and it seems incredible in this day and age they have no access to redress should they not be happy with the service they receive because the FSC, in the words of Mr Killick himself: “Whist we investigate complaints, this is from the perspective of assessing whether a regulatory breach has occurred rather than for redress.”
However Gibraltar’s financial centre is international which in its simplest form see Britons and other foreigners living in Spain using the Rock’s banks and investment companies. This is a more complicated group because their home experience has been when they have encountered a problem or needed to make a complaint there is an Ombudsman to fight their corner. When they experience such difficulties in Gibraltar they are shocked to find they are on their own, which in turn damages the Rock’s standing.
The fact that Mr Killick has come out to demand an Ombudsman either on the UK or Malta model is important because he is a financial expert whose views are taken seriously. It would appear the chief minister has turned a deaf ear to pleas for an Ombudsman from the now leader of the opposition, Fabian Picardo, over a six year period. Indeed such a proposal formed part of the GSLP’s manifesto at the last election and was marked for priority action if they had won.
Commenting on Mr Killick’s statement in the FSC’s annual report Fabian Picardo said: “There has been an obvious need for an Ombudsman to defend the consumer both in the day to day dealings with financial institutions but also in such cases as those which arose with TEPs. It is has been obvious to consumers, it has been obvious to the Opposition, now it is obvious to the FSC and the only person it doesn’t seem obvious to is the Chief Minister.”
Picardo added: “The need for a Financial Services Ombudsman is important not only for Gibraltarians but also for the Rock’s international standing as a financial services hub. Gibraltarians are amongst the thousands that use Gibraltar’s financial institutions and when they encounter problems find there is no means of redress if there is no regulatory breach in their complaint. That is why Gibraltar needs a Financial Services Ombudsman on the same basis as currently exists in the UK so all the customers of our banks and other institutions have this facility which is vital for our mature finance centre. I know that most if not all the financial institutions with a presence in Gibraltar would welcome this also.”