Professor Poonam Puri has been appointed by the board of The Ombudsman for Banking Services and Investments (OBSI) to undertake an independent evaluation of OBSI’s operations. As the evaluation includes input from stakeholders, two requests for comment have been released seeking feedback on a number of different issues, with a comment deadline of January 31, 2022. One consultation focuses on OBSI’s role as one of two authorized External Complaints Bodies under the Bank Act (i.e. its banking-related mandate), and the other on its role as an independent dispute-resolution service for consumers with complaints against registered advisers and dealers in accordance with National Instrument 31-103 Registration Requirements, Exemptions and Ongoing Registrant Obligations.

The questions relating to OBSI’s banking mandate are drawn from the requirements of the applicable regulations under the Bank Act, as well as the guidance set out for OBSI in CG-13 Application Guide for External Complaint Bodies published by the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada. These relate to, among other things, OBSI’s reputation, accessibility, governance, accountability to its members, complainants and the Commissioner of the FCAC, transparency and effectiveness. The questions relating to OBSI’s investment mandate are drawn from the requirements of a memorandum of understanding with certain members of the CSA. The request for comment asks questions on a number of areas relating to its investment mandate, including OBSI’s governance structure, independence, timeliness, its process for setting fees and allocating costs, resources, transparency through public consultations, processes for its core methodologies for dispute resolution and accessibility. Mention is also made of the recommendations of the Capital Markets Modernization Taskforce earlier this year to give the Ontario Securities Commission power to designate a dispute resolution service with binding decision powers and to increase the current monetary limits on compensation decisions.

The goal is for the evaluator to be able to report on OBSI’s operations applicable to the handling of banking complaints from member firms who are federally regulated financial institutions as well as its operations that apply to investment complaints involving firms whose relevant regulator is a CSA member, IIROC and/or the MFDA. Case studies of complaint files, key stakeholder interviews and a review of other evaluations and audits will also be taking place. Both consultations ask numerous questions of firms that have utilized OBSI’s services, and registrants may wish to provide input on those targeted inquiries.

November 30, 2021