NAB appoints law professor as customer advocate

National Australia Bank (NAB) Wealth has appointed an independent expert to act on behalf of customers in disputes stating the appointment was to hold the bank to account.

NAB stated it had appointed Professor Dimity Kingsford Smith, Professor of Law at the University of NSW and former chair of the Financial Planning Association Conduct Review Commission, to the role of Customer Advocate for its wealth advice complaints process.

According to NAB, Kingsford Smith, who is also currently a member of the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) External Advisory Panel, will be authorised to provide support to clients during a compliant resolution.

Kingsford Smith would also be able to escalate complaints to the lead independent director of the NAB Wealth Boards with NAB chief executive Andrew Thorburn stating the advocate role was "designed to challenge us in a meaningful way, to hold us to account, and to support our customers through the resolution of complaints in our financial advice complaints process".

Kingsford Smith said the independent Customer Advocate would also establish general principles for the resolution of claims in the future and she would continue her work as university researcher and public commentator on the law and policy of Australian financial consumers.

The appointment follows news earlier this year that NAB failed to notify ASIC of breaches among its adviser network which led to 37 advisers leaving the bank's advice businesses since 2010. The breaches and departures were raised at a senate hearing in February with ASIC requesting the names of the advisers who had left the group.

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