AFCA Member Forums: two years of operations, future of membership experience

More than 153,000 complaints received, $474.5 million in compensation and refunds

Speaking at the virtual AFCA Member Forums earlier this week, Acting Chief Ombudsman and CEO Justin Untersteiner told AFCA members the ombudsman had received more than 153,000 complaints in its first 24 months, resolving around 135,000 disputes and awarding more than $474.5 million in compensation and refunds to consumers and small businesses.

“Around 60% of these complaints were resolved in under 60 days, with around 50% of all complaints lodged with AFCA closing at the registration and referral stage, the first stage in AFCA’s process. This means we, and our members, are resolving complaints early, leading to better outcomes for both the industry and for consumers.”

Mr. Untersteiner said AFCA’s membership base has also grown over the last 24 months. To date, the financial ombudsman has over 40,000 members from across the Australian financial services sector – including banks, superannuation providers, insurers, and financial advisers. Since 1 November 2018, just 2,575 license members had a complaint raised against them.

“We are also seeing an increasing number of voluntary members, those who are not required to be members of AFCA but choose to be. These members see the value we can add, both in helping resolve complex disputes, but also to provide their customers with open and transparent mechanisms for dealing with complaints when they do arise.”

Speaking at the forum, which over 5,000 AFCA members registered to attend, Mr. Untersteiner told financial service providers that AFCA had engaged in more than 1,000 stakeholder events since 1 November 2018.

“We do this because we want to partner with the industry, consumers and the community to help shape a system which mitigates disputes in the sector. We want to share insights and work proactively with our members to resolve issues early – removing stress for everyone.

“As a result of this work, AFCA now has strong relationships with regulators and with Government, works closely with consumer advocates and community organisations, and is in conversation with the boards of some of Australia’s largest financial institutions.”

Mr. Untersteiner also told members that AFCA will continue to make a conscious and deliberate effort to improve the membership experience over the next two years.

“In the last 6 months, we have appointed a new Head of Membership Services, and have commenced work on delivering a new members resources portal,” he said. “The new portal will include training products such as videos and webinars to help members build capability in key areas of dispute management.

“While we are only in the early design stages of our portal, our goal is to enable our members to interact with us more frequently and have much greater access to information to help them manage the complaints that come to AFCA.”

The ombudsman will also build a tailored and real-time member benchmarking dashboard in the next 12 months to assist with minimising disputes by providing more insights about performance.

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