- Emma Curtis to join AFCA from ASIC as Lead Ombudsman Insurance
- Suanne Russell to join AFCA from Westpac as Lead Ombudsman Small Business
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.”
*Note to Editors: AFCA’s financial complaints-focused small ombudsman role is distinct from the Australian Small Business & Family Enterprise Ombudsman.
About Emma Curtis, Lead Ombudsman – Insurance
Emma Curtis has 25 years of experience in financial services law and governance, including over 10 years as a regulator. Her most recent role was as Senior Executive Leader, Insurers, with ASIC, having developed its stand-alone insurance supervision team. Ms. Curtis was 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. 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. She also led strategic engagement on the business interruption insurance issues that arose out of the pandemic. Ms. Curtis’s work at ASIC also included helping to achieve over $300 million in remediation for consumers for the mis-selling of consumer credit and car-yard add-on insurance.
About Suanne Russell, Lead Ombudsman – Small Business
Suanne 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 had oversight of business lending disputes, business bank remediation projects and regulatory projects. In this role she worked with industry bodies and regulators such as ASIC and the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority on matters related to small business. Ms. Russell was also part of 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.
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- The Australian Financial Complaints Authority (AFCA) is a non-government ombudsman service providing free, fair and independent help with financial disputes.
- AFCA is a one-stop-shop for consumers and small businesses who have a dispute with their financial firm, over things such as banking, credit, insurance, advice, investments or superannuation.
- Where an agreement cannot be reached between parties, AFCA can issue decisions that are binding on financial firms.