The Australian Financial Complaints Authority (AFCA) has created the new role of Senior Ombudsman, announcing seven appointments, as it progresses projects to enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of dispute resolution.
The new Senior Ombudsmen will work closely with AFCA’s Lead Ombudsmen in the areas of banking and finance, insurance, investments and advice, and superannuation.
“They’ll bring their specialist technical and professional expertise to bear on projects aimed at efficient and consistent decision making, which we know is important to both complainants and financial firms,” Deputy Chief Ombudsman June Smith said. “The Senior Ombudsman will help ensure we deliver an independent, fair and consistent approach to decision making and complaint resolution.”
Projects include developing new and revised AFCA Approaches in consultation with stakeholders. These documents outline how AFCA approaches certain types of financial complaint and draw on the experience of Ombudsmen in resolving complaints.
The Senior Ombudsmen will be part of the leadership team in AFCA’s Decision Makers group, which totals more than 80 ombudsmen and adjudication panel members. While the vast majority of the 70,000-plus complaints escalated to AFCA annually are resolved by helping complainants and financial firms reach agreement, around 5,000 cases need the more formal input of a decision maker such as an Ombudsman or Adjudicator.
The new appointments, all internal promotions, are:
- Anne Maree Howley, Senior Ombudsman, Superannuation
- Chris Liamos, Senior Ombudsman General Insurance
- Louise McAuliffe, Senior Ombudsman, Credit
- Shail Singh, Senior Ombudsman, Investments and Advice
- Neva Skilton, Senior Ombudsman, Transactions
- Brenda Staggs, Senior Ombudsman, Financial Difficulty
- Andrew Weinmann, Senior Ombudsman, Life Insurance
Anne Maree Howley, Senior Ombudsman, Superannuation
Anne Maree has extensive experience as a financial services lawyer, including in-house legal roles in superannuation and life insurance companies and working as a solicitor with a top-tier law firm. She has also served on a number of trustee committees.
Chris Liamos, Senior Ombudsman General Insurance
Chris has been with AFCA and its predecessor schemes since 2007, holding case management, jurisdictional, adjudicator and legal counsel roles. Chris has a double degree in law and science and worked extensively in the insurance sector previously.
Louise McAuliffe, Senior Ombudsman, Credit
Louise has extensive experience as a banking and finance lawyer and has held senior roles in corporate and private practice, including at partner level. She was most recently Head of Legal, Dispute Resolution Group, at ANZ.
Shail Singh, Senior Ombudsman, Investments and Advice
Shail has worked in dispute resolution for over a decade. A former financial planner and legal counsel, he has significant experience dealing with financial planning, investments, stockbroking, contracts for difference and foreign exchange disputes.
Neva Skilton, Senior Ombudsman, Transactions
Neva joined the Financial Ombudsman Service in 2012, becoming an Ombudsman in 2019. She has significant experience investigating complex banking disputes but has a particular interest in unauthorised transactions. In private practice she specialised in general insurance law.
Brenda Staggs, Senior Ombudsman, Financial Difficulty
Before joining AFCA, Brenda practised as a lawyer for 18 years, in-house, in private practice and in the social justice sector, specialising in insurance and financial services. She has worked in major law firms, with the Redfern Legal Centre and with Legal Aid NSW.
Andrew Weinmann, Senior Ombudsman, Life Insurance
Andrew became a financial Ombudsman in 2017 after 15 years in practice with major law firms, including as national head of superannuation and insurance at Slater and Gordon. Andrew has a long record of service with not-for-profits and community legal centres.