The ABA is committed to improving customer outcomes in retail banking
The Consumer Outcomes Group (COG) is the ABA’s forum for consumer groups to raise and discuss existing and emerging issues.
Issues are prioritised to work on together to improve customer outcomes. This may include bank practices and products, regulatory issues, and issues impacting low income and vulnerable customers.
To resolve issues COG may share information, do joint research, develop shared policy and regulatory reform positions, and / or change to bank practices.
The Consumer Federation of Australia nominates the seven consumer organisations to work with the ABA on COG.
The ABA also seeks feedback on other work to improve vulnerable customer outcomes from COG consumer representatives and other specialist consumer organisations.
Recent examples include:
- The updated financial abuse guidelines which outline how banks respond to financial abuse – in particular, Family and Domestic Violence (FDV) and elder abuse
- Development of the Financial Assistance Hub which provides a step-by-step guide to customers experiencing financial difficulty.
Examples of things the ABA has worked on with consumer groups include:
Customers who deferred their loans as part of a COVID-19 assistance offering will not have missed repayments reflected on their credit report. This was an industry first, ensuring customers were not unduly impacted by the crisis.
Rachna came to financial counselling in 2011 after a career in retail banking. She is a financial counsellor currently working as the Senior Practitioner, Financial Wellbeing Program, at South East Community Links (SECL).
Rachna works with people experiencing financial difficulty from a range of cultural backgrounds who have been impacted by unemployment, living on a low income, family violence, gambling and other life events.
Rachna is on the SECL board as a Staff representative and is a former member of the Financial Ombudsman Service- Consumer Liaison Group as a consumer representative.
Rachna has a Masters in Business (Swinburne University of Technology), and a Dip. Community Services (Financial Counselling).
Stephanie Tonkin is CEO of Consumer Action Law Centre. She has worked in the community legal and consumer sectors for over a decade, focusing on systemic and integrated service responses to family violence, mortgage stress and vulnerability. Steph is also a Consumer Director on the Energy and Water Ombudsman of Victoria and sits on a broad range of industry and government advisory committees.
Adrian was appointed the inaugural Customer Advocate for the Westpac Group in November 2016.
Adrian represents customers and is independent of Westpac Group’s business units.
Prior to joining the Westpac Group Adrian was a lawyer for more than 30 years, most recently as a partner at international law firm, Norton Rose Fulbright, where he held various roles including Global Chairman.
Angela has been the Commonwealth Bank Group’s Customer Advocate since September 2019. Supported by the Office of the Customer Advocate, Angela uses an independent and community-informed voice to help the Group to identify, address and prevent poor customer outcomes. More information about Angela’s role as the Commonwealth Bank Group Customer Advocate can be found here.
Angela co-chairs Unity, the Commonwealth Bank’s LGBTI+ employee network, which advocates for a culture of inclusion and respect regardless of sexuality, gender and expression across the organisation and broader communities.
Angela has also sat on the board of One Door Mental Health, a leading mental health service provider specialising in severe and persistent mental illnesses, since 2020.
As a descendant of the Wangkumara people of far west NSW, Lynda is a passionate advocate for financial inclusion, fairness and financial resilience for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people across Australia.
After more than a decade in the finance sector, she joined the consumer advocacy movement as program manager at CentaCare Wilcannia-Forbes, she was involved with projects that delivered financial literacy and awareness and advocated for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, including in the Do Not Knock campaign and superannuation and funeral insurance products.
Lynda has completed the Diploma of Financial Counselling and has been involved with consultation groups around Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander financial literacy, the Commonwealth Consumer Affairs Advisory Council, Indigenous Financial Services Network, Indigenous Financial Resilience Research Project with First Nations Foundation, Australian Council for International Development and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Financial Literacy Forum, which is now in its 10th year
Evelyn Halls was appointed as ANZ’s Customer Fairness Advisor in March 2022. Evelyn has senior executive responsibility to help guide and inform ANZ’s decision making on the fairness of the bank’s products and services for retail and small business customers.
Prior to joining ANZ, Evelyn was the Lead Ombudsman – Banking and Finance at the Australian Financial Complaints Authority. She was previously a partner at international law firm Herbert Smith Freehills where she advised corporate and government clients on a wide range of transactional and governance matters.
Ms Halls is also a two-time Olympian and Vice-President of the Australian Olympic Committee, and is currently a member of the IOC’s Athletes Entourage Commission and Athletics Australia’s Ethics & Integrity Commission. She was previously an Integrity Commissioner for Cricket Victoria.
Paul Holmes is the National Legal Aid Representative on the ABA Consumer Outcomes Group. For the past 10 years, Paul has worked as a Senior Lawyer and Consumer Advocate in the Consumer Protection Unit of Civil Justice Services at Legal Aid Queensland.
Paul’s work focuses on assisting consumers in vulnerable circumstances who have legal problems with their mortgages, personal loans, car loans, credit cards, small amount loans, consumer lease, insurance products, telecommunications and other essential services.
Paul is also passionate about improving consumers’ knowledge of their rights under banking and finance and insurance products through community education and is heavily involved in Legal Aid Queensland’s Community Legal Education program.
Paul is a current member of the ICA Consumer Liaison Forum, the FOS Consumer Liaison Group and is the current Chair of the General Insurance Code Governance Committee Association.
Will is an Executive at Bendigo and Adelaide Bank, having practiced as a lawyer for more than 20 years. He has very broad experience across the Bank including Legal, Secretariat, Strategy / M&A, Treasury, Compliance, Operations, Risk and Internal Audit. He also represents the Bank on several Boards and Committees. Will is based in Bendigo where he lives with his wife and three sons.
Corey Irlam is the Deputy Chief Executive for COTA Australia with responsibilities for Government Relations, Special Projects, Advocacy and Communications.
Corey has been with COTA since April 2013 working in the National Aged Care Alliance’s Aged Care Reform Secretariat first as Principal Policy Officer and later as the Aged Care Reform Policy Manager, later working in broader COTA policy areas as Director, Advocacy and Government Relations.
Corey has a Masters in Public Policy and a Masters in Business Administration. He has worked for a range of state and national organisations focused on improving the health and human rights of various populations.
Campbell joined NAB in 2018 as General Manager NAB Assist after a 20-year career at ANZ. During his time with ANZ, Campbell led teams across Retail, Operations and Call Centre functions all at a senior level including time leading the ANZ operational teams in Bengaluru India.
Most recently Campbell was appointed the Executive of NAB Assist leading a specialist team to provide customers facing financial difficulty and hardship by offering assistance that is tailored to the individual’s circumstances. Campbell’s remit at NAB is a clear one, to continue to keep the customer at heart of all that NAB Assist do and to lift NAB’s support of vulnerable communities to the next level.
Campbell is a board member at Way Forward Debt Solutions, he is passionate about community growth and a regular participant in corporate and community activities that supports vulnerable Australians.
Jane Britt is Policy and Advocacy Team Leader at Blind Citizens Australia, a national representative organisation of people who are blind or vision impaired.
Previously, she was National Policy Officer for over two years. Jane is a graduate of Vision Australia’s Graduate Start program in Service Innovation and Design. She is a current Non-Executive Director of Queenslanders with Disability Network (QDN). Jane has worked with the Disability Leadership Institute as an Engagement Guru and as a freelance writer for the Australian Disability Clearinghouse on Education and Training (ADCET) and Eureka Street.
As an integral member of QDeNgage for QDN, Jane has provided consultancy advice and feedback on disability for government consultations. She is a current member is the Steering Committee for the LEAD project with WWDA, and Reference Group for Deafblind Australia. Jane is Co-founder and former President of Achilles Brisbane. Jane has recently been awarded a 2020 Vision Australia Award for her commitment to advocacy.
Drew MacRae has worked in policy development and advocacy for over 20 years.
Drew is currently Policy and Advocacy Officer at the Financial Rights Legal Centre, where he represents the interests of banking, insurance and other financial services consumers. Drew acted as the representative leading consumer input into the 2016 ABA’s Banking Code review, worked on Financial Right’s input into to the financial services royal commission; and advocated on the subsequent reforms arising out of the commission’s final report. Drew has also represented consumer interests in the development of Open Banking and the related regulatory and industry reforms brought about by the Consumer Data Right and the application of digital technology to the financial services sector.
Prior to his work in the financial services sector, Drew worked in film, television and media sector policy and before that worked as a journalist.
Ben was appointed as the BOQ Group Customer Advocate in April 2022. Ben and his team operate independently from BOQ’s business units, representing customers to ensure they are listened to, understood and treated fairly.
Prior to joining BOQ, Ben held senior leadership roles in the financial services industry with a focus on customer advocacy and vulnerability. Ben has also served as independent chairperson and non-executive director of a Queensland community housing organisation and is a regular contributor to community forums that support vulnerable Australians.
More information about the purpose of BOQ’s Office of the Customer Advocate is available here.
Somesh is a