Financial services ombudsman AFCA re-appoints David Locke as its CEO

David Locke, Chief Executive Officer and Chief Ombudsman at AFCA
David Locke, Chief Executive Officer and Chief Ombudsman at AFCA

The Australian Financial Complaints Authority’s (AFCA) Board of Directors announced the re-appointment of David Locke as Chief Ombudsman and CEO for a second five-year term. The financial services ombudsman reported that its complaints resolution scheme had now secured $1bn in compensation for consumers since opening its doors on 1 Nov 2018.

What is the industry expertise of David Locke?

Mr Locke had overseen significant initiatives like the development of the publicly searchable AFCA Datacube, which allows firms and consumers to compare complaints performance; a new funding model welcomed for its fair, user-pays approach; a significant review of the The Australian Financial Complaints Authority Rules now under way; and an ongoing IT transformation to ensure an efficient and user-friendly experience for firms and consumers.

Mr Locke, who will begin his new term on 28 June 2023, said he was honoured to be reappointed Chief Ombudsman. “The Australian Financial Complaints Authority plays a very important role in Australia’s financial services system, and it is a great privilege to lead such an amazing group of people who are passionate about access to justice and fairness to all.”

“We expect to register close to 100,000 complaints this financial year, up from 70,000 complaints just a year ago. AFCA’s services have, sadly, never been more needed. We will continue to work in partnership with financial firms, consumer bodies, and regulators to share lessons from our work and drive improved practices. We want to see financial firms resolve more disputes themselves, so fewer matters have to be escalated to AFCA,” Mr Locke said.

What does the appointment mean for AFCA?

The Australian Financial Complaints Authority’s predecessor schemes, the Financial Ombudsman Service, the Credit and Investments Ombudsman and the Superannuation Complaints Tribunal, together accounted for just over 52,000 complaints in their last full year, 2017-18. This financial year AFCA is on track to receive close to 100,000 complaints.

Professor John Pollaers OAM, Board Chair at AFCA
Professor John Pollaers OAM, Board Chair at AFCA

“As AFCA’s inaugural Chief Ombudsman, David has met the challenge of bringing together three separate dispute resolution bodies to build a new, world-class scheme. He has also led the organisation through a period of significant growth in complaints as a result of the COVID pandemic, natural disasters and scams,” AFCA Board Chair Professor John Pollaers OAM said.

Professor Pollaers said that, in the face of such challenges, the ombudsman service had received a positive report card from the 2021 Independent Review of The Australian Financial Complaints Authority, which found it was “performing well” in a difficult environment.

“The Australian Financial Complaints Authority provides a vital service. Consumers, small businesses and financial firms can participate in the financial system with confidence that a robust process is in place in the event of a dispute. The Board is delighted that David has accepted our invitation to continue to lead this important work,” Professor Pollaers said.

AFCA also announced a significant milestone, with the amount of compensation and refunds secured for consumers now topping $1 billion. As of 30 March, it had resolved more than 320,000 complaints since opening its doors. In that time AFCA has also identified and resolved 236 systemic issues – issues with wider implications beyond an individual complaint – resulting in refunds to 4.7 million consumers totalling more than $278 million.