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AFCA announces 2 new lead ombudsman appointments

Karen Tan
31 May 2021 2 minute readShare
AFCA announces two new Lead Ombudsmen appointments

The Australian Financial Complaints Authority (AFCA) has announced two lead ombudsman appointments for insurance and small business.

Emma Curtis, from ASIC, takes up the Lead Ombudsman Insurance role, while Suanne Russell, from Westpac, takes up the new position of Lead Ombudsman Small Business.

Both appointments take effect in early August.

AFCA Chief Ombudsman David Locke said both Emma and Suanne bring significant financial sector and legal experience to the important roles.

“They will add great diversity and depth of experience to our leadership team,” he said.

Ms Curtis has 25 years of experience in financial services law and governance, including over 10 years as a regulator.

Most recently, Ms Curtis has been working as senior executive leader, insurers, at ASIC, having developed its standalone insurance supervision team. She was also joint acting executive director of ASIC’s Financial Services Group through the period that included the 2019–20 bushfires and the unfolding of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In addition, she established and led ASIC’s bushfire disaster working group and sought to ensure fair treatment of consumers as the pandemic emerged, working with financial firms on minimum hardship practice. Ms Curtis also led strategic engagement on the business interruption insurance issues that arose out of the pandemic. Also at ASIC her work included helping to achieve over $300 million in remediation for consumers for the mis-selling of consumer credit and car-yard add-on insurance.

Mr Locke said Ms Curtis brings many years of experience in consumer law and insurance, and takes up the AFCA role on 9 August.

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,” said Mr Locke.

“We are glad to be able to continue to draw on his experience and counsel.”

Ms Russell is a leading banking and finance lawyer who worked in leading law firms before moving to St George Bank then Westpac as a corporate counsel.

Her roles include a decade as head of institutional and business banking legal for St George Bank, practice leader for business banking with Westpac, a role which included providing support for SME and business banking.

As head of business legal, she oversaw business lending disputes, business bank remediation projects and regulatory projects. She also worked with industry bodies and regulators such as ASIC and the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority on small business matters.

Ms Russell was also included in the Westpac team that worked on the development of business relief packages and special facilities for small business and consumers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Mr Locke said Suanne is a leading banking and finance lawyer and her experience in the small business and consumer banking sector will be invaluable at AFCA when she starts on 2 August.

AFCA is the ombudsman service for the financial services sector, handling complaints in the areas of banking and finance, investments and advice, insurance, and superannuation.

AFCA announces 2 new lead ombudsman appointments
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Karen Tan

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