The Financial Ombudsman Service slashed more than 600 jobs last year, a Freedom of Information Act request reveals.
In January 2016, headcount at the complaints handling service stood at 3609. This had fallen to 3296 by June, and 2974 by the end of the year.
The largest monthly drop came between September and October, when 89 staff were cut.
Apfa senior policy adviser Caroline Escott says that the qualifications and training of staff at FOS will remain important as numbers drop.
She says: “I think the emphasis here should be less on staff quantity and more on the quality and capabilities of FOS staff.
“It is important that FOS adjudicators at all levels have the knowledge and understanding necessary to deal with what can be complex cases. Apfa has held discussions on this and other issues with the FOS and we were pleased that they committed to looking at how they could be more transparent about the qualifications held by FOS adjudicators and ombudsmen, as well as the training provided.”
FOS was also able to provide a snapshot of headcount per department as at March 2015.
This shows that payment protection insurance staff made up the largest team within the organisation, with a headcount of 1362 in one of its two PPI teams and 169 in the other.
In total, the FOS had 217 ombudsmen making decisions on cases, supported by a 41 strong ombudsman operations department and a 19-member legal team.
The communications and customer insight team had 54 members, and the chief executive office had a staff of 14.
The FOS is currently introducing a new way of working to try and deal with complaints earlier on in the process, in which ombudsmen work closely with groups of five investigators with the aim of bringing them closer to the frontline and reduce the cost of resolving complaints.
FOS chief executive Caroline Wayman told Mortgage Strategy’s sister title Money Marketing in November that she wanted ombudsmen “to be in the heart of the organisation” and work with the public and financial services industry more.
Personal Finance Society Keith Richards says: “FOS have become more collaborative with the advice profession in recognition of the lower risk and valuable service provided to the public. The Financial Advice Market Review has helped to bring greater focus and debate on the need to better protect the public by increasing access to advice and it’s important that this continues throughout 2017.”
Overall staff costs are at FOS are projected to fall from £167.9 m to £165.5m in 2017/18, according to the organisation’s proposed budget.
However, the FOS’ overall budget looks set to increase by £30m as the organisation plans to increase its use of contractor staff.
Contractor staff costs were budgeted at £40m for 2016/17 and are set to rise to £70m in 2017/18.