We’re committed to doing the right thing and putting our customers first. As part of this commitment, we established the Office of the Customer Advocate (OCA). We appointed Catherine Wolthuizen as our Customer Advocate for Retail Banking and Small Business.
Catherine and the OCA focus on advocacy and insights to deliver fair outcomes for NAB customers that align with community expectations.
Advocacy is about giving our customers a voice across the bank.
Catherine’s role is to ensure that the customer’s interests are at the centre of the choices we make – particularly when it relates to whether we ‘should’ or ‘shouldn’t’ do something.
Advocacy also means helping us to apply fairness principles and community expectations to NAB’s decisions and actions. To help NAB achieve this, Catherine is working with us to embed a culture of fairness across the bank, influencing our strategy and operations to be more customer-centric.
Catherine and the OCA work collaboratively to support complaint-handlers to get to the heart of a concern raised by a customer quickly. They help the complaint-handler to ask the right questions and identify what a fair outcome is.
The team’s main focus is to support complex and sensitive complaints, in circumstances when a customer might be vulnerable, or where a fair result may be difficult to identify.
Having this support, means we’re able to resolve complex complaints or issues fairly and promptly.
To give added insight into expectations of us, Catherine also works with community and consumer organisations. Her work outside of NAB allows her to anticipate and respond to our customer’s needs – especially if these needs stem from any form of vulnerability.
Catherine and the OCA regularly conduct reviews of:
- closed complaints
- NAB products and services
- NAB policies, programs and procedures.
Her experience and roles external to NAB give Catherine a community-led perspective to these reviews.
Because of this, she's able to spot instances when there may have been unintended outcomes for groups of customers due to the actions of NAB. When this occurs Catherine and the OCA will investigate and work across NAB to identify what needs to be done to put this right and how to avoid these types of issues happening again.
How has the Customer Advocate made a difference so far at NAB?
In 2018/2019 some of the initiatives that OCA collaborated across NAB included:
- improving the disclosure to customers on the terms and conditions of NAB banking products. In this case, the OCA helped identify terms and conditions that were problematic for customers based on the volume of complaints they generated.
- enabling access to redraw facilities where a co-borrower is deceased.
- lifting the capability for complaint handlers to identify red flags of customers experiencing vulnerability and providing additional care to those customers.
In 2020 OCA will be focused on and contribute to:
- NAB supporting customers experiencing financial distress, particularly those impacted by the Coronavirus (COVID-19) and the bushfires.
- the quality and fairness of customer outcomes provided to customers by NAB complaint handlers.
What Catherine brings to NAB
Since her appointment in 2016 as NAB’s Customer Advocate, Catherine’s role has been to champion and represent the voice of customers throughout the bank. She does this by advocating for the fair treatment of customers in all NAB products, services, policies and processes.
Catherine brings her extensive experience as a consumer and human rights advocate and ombudsman to this role. She was a leading consumer advocate at CHOICE and was a co-founder of Consumer Action Legal Centre. She has led international human rights NGO Fair Trials and the UK Whistleblowing charity and helped set up the UK Money and Pensions Advice Service.
Catherine was appointed as an ombudsman at the UK Financial Ombudsman Service in 2012 and led its external engagement program. Since returning to Australia in 2016, she took on the roles of Consumer Representative to AFCA, Chair of the Consumer Policy Research Centre, Chair of the Economic Abuse Reference Group and Director with Consumer or Community experience on the Boards of the Victorian Legal Services Regulator and the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman. This work (in addition to her role as NAB’s customer advocate) keeps her connected with consumers and ensures she can reflect community expectations to NAB.