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GRC Professional : GRC Summer 2013
31 Maintaining the quality and timeliness of dispute resolution is critical. At the same time, we need to ensure we are providing a fair service to consumers and financial service providers. important to meet the immediate challenges, it was also a good time to look ahead, understand our current and future needs and put in place a plan and structure that would help us achieve our goals. The result was our 2012-2015 strategic plan, which sets our course for how we develop and sustain ourselves for the next three years and beyond. To help us deliver on the plan, we re-shaped our business structure in order to strengthen our management capabilities and technical expertise. This saw us introduce three new executive general managers to our leadership team to head up our dispute resolution teams and oversee strategy and business operations. This meant our lead ombudsmen could spend more time on complex disputes, provide more advice and expertise to our stakeholders, as well as develop the capability of our people. Another important change was consolidating our Code Compliance and Monitoring team, which monitors compliance with the Banking, Mutual Banking, General Insurance and Insurance Broker's codes of practice. This has streamlined our work in this area and helped the team drive industry improvements by sha ring their experience and knowledge. We also made a new consolidated Financial Difficulty team to give us a dedicated process to manage the growing number of financial difficulty disputes, and we consolidated our systemic issues specialists into one team. You have said your personal philosophy is to do some public good, to treat people, the environment and the world with respect. It would seem as Financial Service Ombudsman you have a role that blends seamlessly with this philosophy. What has been the most rewarding/challenging aspect of the job? There's a number of rewarding aspects of working at FOS, but if I were to narrow them down, I would say it's knowing the importance of the service we provide. Financial services are such an integral part of modern life and have an impact on every Australian. Being able to work with the industry and assist people, who are often in real need, to overcome some form of financial adversity by offering a quicker and cheaper alternative than going to court, is gratifying. With a growing number of disputes coming to us each year, the task of assisting a greater number of people is becoming more important. The FOS needs to keep abreast of a minefield of regulation. As a person more familiar than most with regulatory frameworks and market structures, do you think Australia's regulatory environment is robust enough or could it do with some streamlining or more regulation? The government is presently consulting and implementing a range of financial sector reforms so I'd prefer to leave it to those who are better informed on the details to comment. What I would say is that while appropriate, high- quality regulation is important, it needs a capable and robust social infrastructure to support it. Strong community-based organisations, for example, help vulnerable consumers access support services and with education and interpretation of what can often be complex regulatory issues. Building capability and providing more financial support for community-based financial counselling services would help strengthen the social infrastructure that helps underpin appropriate financial sector regulation, particularly for the less well off and vulnerable members of our community. Important also is better engagement and communication between financial sector firms and their customers. In my experience, a great majority of disputes between parties could be avoided by better communication. Good communication helps reduce disputes, manage costs and achieve far better outcomes for all concerned when a dispute does occur. •••
GRC Spring 2012
GRC Autumn 2013