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AFCA names new insurance lead ombudsman

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Emma Curtis is to take the role of Lead Ombudsman, Insurance at the Australian Financial Complaints Authority (AFCA), effective August 9.

AFCA handles more than 70,000 complaints a year and its five lead ombudsmen – who are now all women – head teams of more than 80 ombudsmen and adjudication panel members.

Ms Curtis joins from the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC), where she has been Senior Executive Leader, Insurers and developed its stand-alone insurance supervision team.

She takes over from John Price, who is retiring as lead ombudsman after 17 years at AFCA and its predecessor schemes, although he will continue in a part-time role.

“Emma is well known and respected in the insurance industry,” AFCA Chief Ombudsman David Locke said. “She brings many years of experience in consumer law and insurance.”

Ms Curtis has 25 years’ experience in financial services law and governance, including more than a decade as a regulator. She was formerly joint Acting Executive Director of ASIC’s Financial Services Group and established and led its bushfire disaster working group and worked with financial firms on minimum hardship practice as the COVID pandemic emerged.

She led ASIC’s strategic engagement on business interruption insurance issues that arose out of the pandemic and also helped achieve more than $300 million in remediation for consumers for the mis-selling of consumer credit and car-yard add-on insurance.

AFCA also announced Suanne Russell has been appointed Lead Ombudsman Small Business, joining from Westpac Banking Corporation where she has been Head of Business Bank Legal.

“Emma and Suanne will bring significant financial sector and legal experience to these important roles,” Mr Locke said. “They will add great diversity and depth of experience to our leadership team.”

AFCA’s other lead ombudsmen are Evelyn Halls (Banking and Finance), Natalie Cameron (Investments and Advice) and Heather Gray (Superannuation).