The Australian Financial Complaints Authority (AFCA) has announced the appointment of two new Lead Ombudsmen, for Insurance and for Small Business.
Emma Curtis will join AFCA from the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC), taking on the role of Lead Ombudsman Insurance. Suanne Russell will be the new Lead Ombudsman Small Business, coming from a senior legal business banking role at Westpac Banking Corporation.
“Emma and Suanne will bring significant financial sector and legal experience to these important roles,” AFCA Chief Ombudsman David Locke said in announcing the appointments, which take effect in early August. “They will add great diversity and depth of experience to our leadership team.”
Ms. Curtis comes to AFCA from ASIC, where she has been Senior Executive Leader, Insurers. “Emma is well known and respected in the insurance industry,” Mr. Locke said. “She brings many years of experience in consumer law and insurance.”
Ms. Russell joins from Westpac, where she has been Head of Business Bank Legal. “Suanne is a leading banking and finance lawyer and her experience in the small business and consumer banking sector will be invaluable,” Mr. Locke said.
AFCA is the ombudsman service for the financial services sector, handling complaints in four areas: banking and finance, investments and advice, insurance, and superannuation. In addition, a dedicated small business ombudsman* oversees complaints from small business.
AFCA provides free, fair and impartial complaints handling for consumers and small businesses who have been unable to resolve a dispute directly with a financial firm. It handles more than 70,000 complaints a year. Its five lead ombudsmen are responsible for AFCA’s approach to decision making and they head teams totalling more than 80 ombudsmen and adjudication panel members. AFCA’s other lead ombudsmen are Evelyn Halls (Banking and Finance), Natalie Cameron (Investments and Advice), and Heather Gray (Superannuation).
Ms. Russell joins AFCA on August 2, while Ms. Curtis takes up her role on August 9.
Ms. Curtis takes over from John Price, who retires as Lead Ombudsman Insurance after 17 years as a senior decision-maker with AFCA and its predecessor schemes. He will continue in a part-time role. “We thank John for his tremendous service, working for the benefit of both industry and consumers, most recently through a series of devastating natural disasters and as the COVID-19 pandemic presented unique challenges,” Mr. Locke said. “We are glad to be able to continue to draw on his experience and counsel.”