Up to two years to establish financial ombudsman service in Belarus
MINSK (BelTA) – The establishment of financial ombudsman service may take up to two years, BelTA learned from World Bank expert David Thomas told journalists on 24 June.
“I have come to Belarus on behalf of the World Bank to tell Belarusian colleagues how the financial ombudsman service functions in the world today. It is my first time in Belarus, so at the moment I cannot advice you on whether you need such a service. In your region, the decision to establish financial ombudsman service is usually taken by the government or the central (national) bank of the country. The process generally takes around two years,” David Thomas explained. Financial ombudsmen from different countries will gather in Finland in September 2015. David Thomas noted that representatives of the National Bank of Belarus could take part in this forum.
If Belarus decides to set up financial ombudsman service, it will have to build its own model of this institution. The expert believes that it is important to take into account international practices, but the priority should be placed on the distinctive features of the national law and the Belarusian financial market. David Thomas believes that if Belarus decides in favor of this service, it should use the experience of Armenia. “I was born in the United Kingdom. The ombudsman service has been operating there since 1981. Still, Belarus needs to be guided by the experience of a country with a more similar financial system. Armenia is one of such countries, and it has already successfully established financial ombudsman service. Today the whole world listens to its opinion in this matter,” David Thomas stressed.
In his words, the establishment of financial ombudsman service is in the interests of the state, the financial sector, and ordinary citizens. The service makes the country more attractive and enhances the country's reputation on the international financial market. The service provides financial institutions with consistent professional help and clears them of unfair charges. It also provides citizens with an informal and unbiased opinion on financial matters.
David Thomas believes that Belarus will not face any difficulties in finding necessary specialists. The main requirements for a financial ombudsman are independence and impartiality. It is not even necessary to have a degree in law. “Usually, the main requirement is that the candidate should not have worked, in the previous three years, in a financial business. Otherwise, clients will not trust him,” the expert added.
A financial ombudsman acts as an independent intermediary in conflicts between financial institutions and citizens. His free-of-charge services represent an informal alternative to judicial settlement. An ombudsman can also provide consultation services.