David Locke is the chief ombudsman and chief executive of the Australian Financial Complaints Authority.
David Locke is the chief ombudsman and chief executive of the Australian Financial Complaints Authority.

Bad bankers to be named, shamed

AUSTRALIA'S new ombudsman for victims of bank wrongdoing says he will do more to name culprits of "egregious" behaviour in a bid to stop scandals in the financial services sector.

Australian Financial Complaints Authority chief David Locke says he believes in the power of naming wrongdoers as a way of preventing bad behaviour.

"Transparency can play an important role in changing behaviour and improving practices," Mr Locke told Business Daily.

The mega ombudsman - the Australian Financial Complaints Authority - is taking complaints from consumers and small businesses from Thursday.

Consumer advocates fear a lot of the transparency flowing from the banking royal commission that has forced financial institutions to clean up their act will disappear after commissioner Kenneth Hayne hands down his final report in February.

Last May, then treasurer Scott Morrison announced the Financial Ombudsman Service was being merged with the Credit and Investments Ombudsman and the Superannuation Complaints Tribunal to create a "mega ombudsman" for the sector called the Australian Financial Complaints Authority.

Mr Locke said while FOS had the power to name offending organisations in annual thematic reports about the industry, this was a "more opaque way" than the approach AFCA will pursue.

"I'm keen to do much more," he said. "More than an annual basis."

AFCA had to be careful in protecting the privacy of victims, Mr Locke said.

But in particularly bad cases of widespread abuses there might be a case for naming individual financial organisations after a decision is reached, he said.

"I am open if it is egregious behaviour," he said.

Mr Locke said his organisation was ready to take on the landslide of new cases expected to hit the authority as it officially opened for business Thursday.

The organisation is expecting 55,000 complaints in its first year of operation.

"We are ready for it and we are expecting it," Mr Locke said.

The now defunct Financial Ombudsman Service experienced a 10 per cent rise in complaints in its last year as the public became much more aware of their rights amid the royal commission.

Mr Locke said while FOS had resolved more than 87 per cent of complaints within 90 days, he acknowledged some cases had "taken too long".

From Thursday, any consumer or small business with an unresolved complaint about a financial product or service can contact AFCA for free.

 Consumers and small businesses can make a complaint online at afca.org.au or by calling 1800 931 678.