The Insurance & Financial Services Ombudsman (IFSO): Everything you need to know
Types of services: Dispute resolution and complaints handling
Head: Karen Stevens
The IFSO was established in 1995 as the Insurance & Savings Ombudsman Scheme (ISO), and is an approved dispute resolution scheme which offers free, independent advice to customers and financial service providers.
The scheme aims to be accessible, independent, fair, accountable and effective, and considers complaints which were unable to be resolved through the financial advice provider’s internal dispute resolution process.
The IFSO Scheme responds to over 3,000 complaint enquiries every year, and resolves approximately 300 formal complaints. It currently has over 4,000 participants, and can only formally investigate complaints involving participants of the scheme. It is funded through participant levies and fees.
IFSO deals with complaints within five key sectors: insurance, superannuation, investments and securities, loans and credit, financial advice and foreign exchange. It handles complaints through negotiation, and mediation, considering all the facts and applying relevant law.
IFSO decisions are binding on the scheme’s participants, but not consumers. Consumers have the option of taking their complaint to a different dispute resolution process or to the court if they are not happy with the outcome.
IFSO is a member of the International Network of Financial Services Ombudsman Schemes (the INFO Network), a global association founded in 2007.
IFSO in the news
1995 – The ISO Scheme is founded with the aim of providing a free and accessible dispute resolution service
2015 – The ISO scheme changes its name to the Insurance & Financial Services Ombudsman (IFSO)
2016 – IFSO reveals figures for complaints related to Canterbury earthquake claims, revealing that 38% of Canterbury complaints were settled in comparison to a 24% settlement rate for complaints overall.
2017 – IFSO releases its 22nd Annual report, noting that complaints were the highest that they had been in almost 20 years
2018 – Sue Suckling comes on as Commission Chair
2018 – IFSO commences an independent review of its complaints handling service, something it is required to do every five years
2019 – The results of the independent review are released, with reviewer Professor John McMillan AO making a number of recommendations. Sue Suckling noted that the overall report was “very positive.”
2019 – IFSO releases its 2019 annual report, noting a significant increase in complaint enquiries and a small rise in complaints. 70% of the complaints related to general insurance.
Key people as of 2019
Karen Stevens - IFSO
Stevens is the current Insurance & Financial Services Ombudsman, having been appointed in 1998 – three years after the scheme officially began. She has a background in law and alternative dispute resolution, and studied law and English at Victoria University in the UK before obtaining a Masters’ degree in law from LaTrobe University in Australia. Stevens is also a member of the Australian and New Zealand Ombudsman Association (ANZOA), the central organisation for Ombudsmen across the two countries.
Louise Peters – Deputy Ombudsman
Peters works alongside Stevens to lead a team of case managers, and has significant expertise in dispute resolution, law and financial services. She joined the IFSO scheme in 2013.