Mark O'Neill Shares his Career Story
Mark works as an Adjudicator at the Financial Ombudsman Service.
What’s your background? What do you do?
I come from a working-class background in Essex. After a failed attempt during my teenage years at becoming a professional footballer with Crystal Palace, I drifted through school and college with average grades (mostly C grades in my GCSE’s and A-Levels). At 21, I dropped out of university after studying business economics having realised, that I had made a mistake in my decision. I was unsure about what I wanted to do, so I spent some time working in a few different roles in the hotel industry, before being offered a role with serviced office company in Central London, who rented office space to companies.
This led to some other roles in facilities management in the public sector that involved looking after a building, managing the space, and dealing with any health and safety issues. It was a really useful experience, and I believe that it gave me an excellent grounding for a career in law, as it taught me about managing workloads, working in a team and also working with clients to understand and deliver their needs. It was very challenging, and on the whole, enjoyable, but I felt as though I wanted more from my career in the long term.
I attended the Open University in 2012 doing a Foundation Degree in Business, which I upgraded to study some extra subjects, contract, tort, land and trusts law which converts to a full undergraduate degree. I graduated with a First in July 2017. This piqued my interest in becoming a lawyer and I have been working towards it ever since. I have completed the GDL at BPP University, and have recently started a LLM in Sports Law at De Montford University. My current role at the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) is my first step into the legal world. I have really enjoyed it since I joined in August 2018. It has taken me longer than normal, but I believe this demonstrates the value in perseverance and not letting rejection and knockbacks get the better of you.
Why did you choose to work as an Adjudicator?
I applied for the role with the FOS as I thought it would be an interesting position where I could take my first steps towards becoming a lawyer. My role as an Adjudicator involves investigating and deciding consumer complaints against financial institutions, such as, banks. When the consumer complains to the bank, and the bank rejects their complaint, they come to us to ask us to look at the case again and make an assessment on it. We’re impartial, and I like the fact that I am able to look at the facts of a case and come to a reasoned opinion to help settle disputes.
What is your typical day like working for FOS? What sort of work do you deal with?
My typical day usually involves a lot of document review. I also spend a lot of time on the telephone to banks and consumers to investigate the full facts of a case, such as, looking at a consumer’s circumstances at the time in question. I also have to mediate cases between the two parties in order to arrive at a fair outcome for both sides. Additionally, I have to write to both sides to communicate my decision in a particular case as to whether I am recommending that the complaint is upheld against the financial institution. At the moment, the cases I am dealing with relates to the potential mis-sale of payment protection insurance on products such as credit cards, mortgages and store cards.
What have you learnt?
I have learnt a lot in a short span of time! I have developed important skills such as my attention to detail, becoming more organised, as well as my communication skills. More importantly, I have learnt to keep an open mind and never make assumptions about the facts in front of you.
Why do you want to become a lawyer?
I want to become a lawyer as I believe it is a respected, challenging and rewarding career. It is a role that is varied, requires you think creatively and solve problems - which are all things I enjoy!
Where do you see yourself in 5 years’ time?
Hopefully, as a qualified lawyer at a City Firm having completed my training contract!
What are your own personal career aims?
I hope to qualify as a lawyer specialising in sports law dealing with the issues such as the regulation and governance of sport, and dispute resolution. I believe that my LLM study at De Montford University will help achieve this goal.