The Ombudsman of Banking Services and Investments (OBSI) plays a crucial role in the Canadian financial services industry. As an independent and impartial dispute resolution service, the OBSI provides an accessible, efficient, and fair avenue for consumers and small businesses to resolve complaints with their banks and investment firms.

Introduction to the OBSI

The OBSI is a national agency that investigates unresolved disputes between participating banking services and investment firms and their customers. It provides an alternative to legal action, which can be costly and time-consuming for consumers.

The OBSI was formed in 1996 through the merger of two predecessor organizations – the Banking Ombudsman and the Investment Dealers Ombudsman. It is a non-profit organization funded by the financial services industry. Participation is mandatory for all banks and investment dealers regulated by the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada (FCAC).

Key Functions

The key functions of the OBSI include:

  • Investigating complaints – The OBSI conducts fair and accessible investigations into unresolved disputes. Complainants do not need to hire legal representation.
  • Making recommendations – Where a complaint has merit, the OBSI recommends compensation up to a limit of $350,000. Recommendations are not binding but firms are expected to comply in good faith.
  • Reporting systemic issues – The OBSI identifies complaint trends and reports serious issues to regulators to improve industry practices.
  • Public outreach – The OBSI informs the public of its free services through community outreach and stakeholder engagement.

Powers and Limitations

The OBSI has important investigatory powers but also certain limitations on its authority:

Key Powers

  • Compel cooperation from firms – Require disclosure of documents, information, and records
  • Obtain sworn statements – Examine parties and witnesses under oath
  • Make findings of fact – Draw conclusions through fair review of evidence

Key Limitations

  • Cannot impose solutions – Recommendations are non-binding
  • $350,000 compensation limit per complaint
  • No oversight role – Works collaboratively with regulators
  • No adjudicative role – Does not determine legal outcomes

OBSI Complaint and Investigation Process

The OBSI follows a clear process when handling complaints:

Step 1 – Intake

Complaints can be submitted online or by phone. Basic information is gathered about the dispute. Complaints must relate to a participating firm and customer.

Step 2 – Early resolution

The OBSI contacts the firm to notify them of the dispute and seek an early resolution. Many complaints are resolved at this stage.

Step 3 – Investigation

If early resolution fails, an investigation is opened. The OBSI gathers information from both parties such as documents, interviews, and written submissions.

Step 4 – Decision

The OBSI makes a determination if a complaint has merit and issues a recommendation report to the parties.

Step 5 – Monitoring

The OBSI follows up to ensure firms comply with recommendations. If a firm rejects a recommendation, public reporting may occur.

Role in Improving Financial Services

A key part of the OBSI’s mission is to improve practices and standards across the banking and investment industry. The OBSI:

  • Identifies trends – Tracks complaint data to spot problem areas and emerging issues.
  • Makes recommendations – Provides guidance to regulators on needed legislative and industry reforms.
  • Informs consumers – Educates the public on dispute resolution rights and smart investing.
  • Engages firms – Collaborates with banks and investment dealers to improve internal complaint handling.
  • Advocates reforms – Calls for policy and process changes to address consumer protection gaps.

OBSI Governance and Oversight

The OBSI operates as an independent agency with oversight shared by regulators and stakeholders:

  • Independent Board of Directors – Responsible for governance and strategic direction. Drawn from community and industry.
  • Regulators – OBSI has Memoranda of Understanding with provincial securities regulators and the FCAC.
  • Consumer and Investor Advisory Councils – Provide input on OBSI operations and policy.
  • Participating Firms – Firms serve on Institutional Advisory Council and provide operational feedback.
  • External reviews – Conducted every 5 years to ensure independence and effectiveness.

Dealing with Your Bank or Investment Firm

If you are struggling to resolve an issue with your bank or investment dealer, consider bringing your case to the OBSI:

Should You Complain?

  • Attempted to resolve issue with the firm first
  • Complaint relates to a product, service or advice
  • Seeking action or payment from the firm

What to Expect

  • Process is free of charge and without legal representation
  • Fair and accessible services in over 170 languages
  • Clear procedures and defined timelines
  • Independent and unbiased investigation


For over 25 years, the Ombudsman for Banking Services and Investments has provided Canadian consumers with an invaluable service – the ability to have their unresolved disputes with financial services firms investigated at no cost. The OBSI plays an important role in consumer protection, regulatory oversight, dispute resolution and improving industry standards. Their independent oversight instills confidence that the financial marketplace operates with integrity. If you are unable to resolve an issue directly with your bank or investment dealer, consider turning to the expertise of the OBSI for an impartial review.