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OBSI announces changes to its organizational governance

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TORONTO, June 26, 2023 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — The Ombudsman for Banking Services and Investments (OBSI) today announced the changes to its organizational governance following its public consultation on governance from November 1, 2022 to January 31, 2023.

The consultation was undertaken following OBSI’s 2021 independent evaluation that recommended a strategic review of its governance structure be undertaken to determine how best to ensure that key stakeholder interests are effectively incorporated into board membership and decision-making.

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“Based on the input received from stakeholders, we are making important changes to further enhance the consumer and investor voice on our board, to create a broader and more flexible approach for industry director selection, and to increase our stakeholder outreach programs,” said Maureen Jensen, OBSI Board Chair. “The board would like to thank all stakeholders who participated in the consultation process. The changes we are making reflect that input and will ensure that OBSI has the right governance and oversight to remain effective in meeting its public service mandate,” said Ms. Jensen.

Following a careful consideration of the comments received by stakeholders, the Board of Directors is pleased to announce the following changes:

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  • The board has renewed its skills matrix to comprehensively reflect criteria related to business and professional experience, geographic representation, regulatory experience, areas of specialized expertise and diversity. All board members will be evaluated and selected based on their strengths and expertise relative to the renewed matrix, to ensure the board collectively has all the required skills to effectively govern the corporation, deliver on its public mandate and understand the business of its members.
  • OBSI’s board will continue to include three designated industry director positions and the candidates will be selected for their experience and knowledge in one or more of the financial industry sectors that OBSI members operate in and must be directly affiliated with a participating firm at the time of their appointment or within the two preceding years. The board will endeavour to ensure that at all times at least one industry director will have current or recent expertise in the banking industry and one industry director will have current or recent expertise with an Investment Dealer or Mutual Fund Dealer, as the majority of cases considered by OBSI relate to these financial services sectors. Banking and financial services stakeholders will be consulted when OBSI is seeking nominations for industry director positions, however, they will no longer be selected solely from nominees put forward by the Canadian Bankers Association, the Investment Industry Regulatory Organization of Canada and the Mutual Fund Dealers Association of Canada (now merged into the Canadian Investment Regulatory Organization).
  • The number of designated consumer interest directors will be increased from one to three. Consumer interest directors will be selected for their experience in engaging with the banking, financial services or other sectors in consumer or investor advocacy. Consumer stakeholders will be consulted when OBSI is seeking nominations for consumer interest director positions.

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This new board structure is designed to balance consumer and industry expertise on the board and to allow the board to better reflect the diversity of industry sectors participating in OBSI’s service.

These changes are now incorporated in OBSI’s updated By-law, which the board approved at its June meeting.

Industry directors and consumer interest directors are expected to bring their unique perspectives and expertise to board deliberations to ensure that OBSI governance is undertaken with an understanding and appreciation of the interests and concerns of all the stakeholders served by the organization. As is currently the case, all directors owe their duty to OBSI and cannot advocate for or represent any outside interest while engaged in OBSI governance.

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Enhanced stakeholder input and outreach

In addition to governance changes, OBSI is also expanding its formal stakeholder outreach efforts, by establishing separate bi-annual meetings with consumer groups and industry associations, which will be led by the senior management team and include board member participation.

Additionally, the organization will pursue other stakeholder input strategies, including establishing task forces, working groups, conducting surveys, and establishing focus groups on an as-needed basis for specific projects.

With these enhancements to consumer engagement directly on the board, and increased stakeholder outreach, the board has decided not to reconvene the Consumer and Investor Advisory Council (CIAC).

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OBSI’s CIAC was established over 12 years ago, to provide the input of consumers and investors to OBSI’s board of directors and management team. The advice from the CIAC to the board of directors was both valuable and insightful and has led to the addition of two consumer interest directors to the board. This change, and the addition of scheduled bi-annual meetings with consumer and investor groups, ensures that OBSI will have ongoing and effective consumer and investor advice.

OBSI has undertaken these governance changes in light of the current operating environment and input received during the public consultation. Looking forward, OBSI remains open to engaging in governance related discussions with the Canadian Securities Administrators as they continue their work on a potential proposal for providing OBSI with the authority to make binding determinations and the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada as they work towards the implementation of a single banking external complaints body system.

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The consultation resulted in 25 submissions – nine from individual consumers, eight from consumer groups, one from a professional association, one from a participating firm and six from industry associations. In addition, 22 surveys were completed by industry participants from 11 participating firms.

Canada’s Ombudsman for Banking Services and Investments (OBSI) is a national, independent, not-for-profit organization that helps resolve and reduce disputes between consumers and financial services firms in both official languages. OBSI is responsive to consumer inquiries, conducts fair and accessible investigations of unresolved disputes, and shares its knowledge and expertise with all stakeholders and the public. If a consumer has a complaint against an OBSI participating bank or investment firm that they are not able to resolve with the bank or firm, OBSI will investigate at no cost to the consumer. Where a complaint has merit, OBSI may recommend compensation up to a maximum of $350,000.

For more information, contact:
Mark Wright, Director, Communications and Stakeholder Relations
416-287-2877 ext.2225
[email protected]

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