AFCA hires two new lead ombudsmen

  • By Elizabeth Fry

The Australian Financial Complaints Authority (AFCA) has appointed two new lead ombudsmen for insurance and small business. 

Emma Curtis will join AFCA as insurance ombudsman on 9 August 2021 while Suzanne Russell would join on 2 August, 2021as lead ombudsman for small business. 

She will take over from John Price who will retire after 17 years at AFCA and its predecessor schemes. However, he will continue in a part-time role. 

Curtis was previously at the Australian Securities and Investment Commission where her most recent role was as senior executive leader – insurers where she developed ASIC’s stand-alone insurance supervision team. 

She has had 25 years of experience in financial services law and governance, including ten years as a regulator. 

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 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. In addition, she led strategic engagement on the business interruption insurance issues that arose out of the pandemic. 

Russell will join AFCA 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 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 businesses and consumers during the 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.”