AFCA appoints two lead ombudsmen

The Australian Financial Complaints Authority (AFCA) has appointed Emma Curtis as lead ombudsman for insurance and Suanne Russell as lead ombudsman for small business.

Curtis would join on 9 August, 2021, taking over from John Price who would retire from the role, while Russell would join on 2 August, 2021.

Curtis joined from the Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC) and had 25 years’ experience in financial services law and governance, which included 10 years as a regulator.

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Her most recent role with ASIC was as senior executive leader – insurers and developed its stand-alone insurance supervision team.

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.

Russell joined from Westpac, where she had been head of business bank legal with 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 (APRA) on matters related to small business.

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.

David Locke, AFCA chief ombudsman, said both appointees would add significant financial sector and legal experience to these roles.

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

“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.”

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