7 February 2019
The Australian Financial Complaints Authority (AFCA) is pleased to announce the appointment of Mr Geoff Browne GAICD to its staff. Mr Browne is AFCA’s inaugural Lead Ombudsman – Small Business.
AFCA Chief Executive and Chief Ombudsman David Locke announced the appointment today, saying, “The appointment of Geoff Browne to this key role at AFCA is positive both for the small business community and AFCA. Geoff has played an important role in improving dispute resolution outcomes for small businesses for many years, and brings firsthand knowledge of the challenges facing small businesses,” said Mr Locke.
“AFCA recognises the importance of small businesses and the final report from the Hayne Royal Commission clearly demonstrates how devastating it can be when they have financial disputes that are not fairly resolved,” said Mr Locke.
“I am delighted and excited to be taking up this role at AFCA. Providing access to effective dispute resolution for small businesses is something I am very committed to. I’m looking forward to working with both the small business sector and the financial industry to ensure AFCA delivers fair solutions to financial complaints,” said Mr Browne.
Under the AFCA Rules, a small business is now defined as an organisation with less than 100 employees (an increase from 20 employees under predecessor schemes). AFCA can consider complaints from small businesses about a credit facility up to the value of $5 million. Small businesses will also benefit from an increased compensation cap from $323,500 to $1 million, and primary producers such as farmers have a compensation cap of $2 million.
“As AFCA’s dedicated small business lead ombudsman, Geoff will ensure that we place the needs of small businesses front and centre in all our work,” Mr Locke said.
Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman Kate Carnell welcomed the appointment, saying, “I worked with Geoff Browne in his role as Victorian Small Business Commissioner. He is very knowledgeable about the banking sector and highly respected by the small business sector. Geoff is perfect for this job.”
Council of Small Business Organisations Australia’s CEO Peter Strong also commended Mr Browne’s appointment to this important role, saying, “This is an excellent choice. Geoff is well respected, incredibly experienced and complete with the knowledge needed.”
Mr Browne will start in the role on Tuesday 12 February.
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Geoff Browne has held several high profile senior roles supporting the small business sector. Geoff was the Victorian Small Business Commissioner from 2011 to 2016, where he successfully decreased the number of disputes between landlords and commercial tenants, expanded engagement with small and medium businesses, and increased awareness of the dispute resolution services offered by the Commission with customer satisfaction ratings of 95%.
Prior to this Geoff was Deputy Director at Consumer Affairs Victoria, and has had senior management experience in both the public and private sectors, working in telecommunications, finance, and e-commerce. He has also run his own small business.
Mr Browne holds a Master’s Degree and First Class Honours Degree in Economics, and a Graduate Diploma in Company Secretarial Practice.
The Australian Financial Complaints Authority (AFCA) is a free and independent ombudsman service that resolves complaints by consumers and small businesses about financial firms. AFCA was established following the 2016 Ramsay Review into how Australia’s external dispute resolution framework could be improved to deliver effective outcomes for all Australian consumers and small business.
On 1 November 2018, AFCA replaced the Financial Ombudsman Service, the Credit and Investments Ombudsman and the Superannuation Complaints Tribunal as the one-stop-shop for financial dispute resolution.