Bank customer advocates - what's your experience?

The big banks have recently started appointing ‘customer advocates’ to assist customers with dispute resolution. We’re looking into this to find out how useful these advocates are, or whether it’s all just a PR campaign to counter the banks’ current image problem.

If you’ve dealt with a customer advocate, we’d love to hear about your experience!

How did you find out about the customer advocate? Were they any help? Was your complaint resolved to your satisfaction? Did you escalate the complaint to the Financial Ombudsman Service? Let us know!


Haven’t used the advocate, but I have used the FOS.

They are meant to be impartial, but I found them to be incredibly biased towards the industry they are supposed to adjudicate over.


Our ombudsman services are all alike. They work for their industry, are paid by their industry, and know better than to bite the hand that provides their payroll. They are essentially window dressing to make their industry look accountable so as to avoid actual regulation.

At best their role is to mediate although it appears you have experienced their preference is to ‘make it go away’. It is not about adjudicating.


Correct Phil. They just wanted us to disappear and not take up their time.

In our case, FSO whitewashed a whole series of morally reprehensible corrupt behaviours and decisions as ‘acceptable within the industry’. (I just realized that although it was years ago, I am still angry about it. My apologies.)

Unfortunately, there is no avenue of appeal to an independent body unless you are mega-wealthy.


Seems to me their job is to make people feel like they are doing good things with their money while all the time siphoning off as much as they can for themselves, maybe one of the reasons they are so much in the spotlight now.

I’ve had a good and a bad experience with FOS - and many good experiences with TIO and two really bad ones with the Commonwealth Ombudsman - re ombudsman, veering OT … I see customer advocates in a similar way, while it is our money that pays them, its their employer who gives it to them after it has been liberated from our wallet.

Back (more) on topic - years ago NAB had what they called ‘personal bankers’ - my experience with them was very good. They seemed to die out 2006-8-ish?

You just can’t beat good customer service though, staff who understand happy customers are in their best interests. There’s a couple of staff at my local branch who take that further than most - direct, honest, helpful, cheerful, responsive. They are their employers best assets …


Those were the days. I remember when the staff knew you by name, and all about you.

Not long ago there was a former bank teller on the ABC saying she finally resigned after having been chastised repeatedly by her employer for spending too much time with customers. Apparently, many of her clients were elderly, and she rightly pointed out that they take much longer to serve than younger people. Unfortunately, the service component mattered less to the bank than KPIs.


Place your story with the Royal Commission. I don’t think it will make your years old outcome any better but it might let some other questions be asked in the Commission.


I assist elderly and disabled people with their financial complaints so I have a bit of experience with dealing with Customer Advocates (mostly from ANZ) and the various Ombudsmen.

In my experience the Customer Advocates aren’t much different from dealing with a normal ‘case manager’ type person from the bank’s hardship office. The Customer Advocate just tends to want to talk to you by phone more, asks more personal questions to get a handle on the levels of stress you’re in (I assume this is why) and tends to be a bit bossier in the ‘this is what we can give you but you have to do X in response’. They are almost always very nice, very lenient.

However, they’re not really useful. They can’t/don’t do any proper kind of investigation into your financial situation the way a Financial Counsellor would so you are just as at risk of agreeing to an ‘affordable sounding’ payment arrangement that is actually impossible. If they go straight for the ‘okay, you don’t have to make any payments at all for a while’ then they are literally doing nothing that the regular hardship department wouldn’t do - pausing repayments and hoping your income magically recovers.

I will say that they are a mile better than speaking to anyone in collections or billing. Maybe for some people who are anxious about contacting a bank when they’re in hardship (which is almost all of the people I help), they’re a great idea. They give the person the feeling that their job is to ‘hear your side’ (if not act truly on your behalf) and they’re trained differently from the normal people you might otherwise initially come into contact with. Also, if you’re a bit worried about your english ability or ability to form what it is you want, they could be very helpful. Just… they’re the most helpful when you go in with a solid idea of what you want to happen. Because at the end of the day, they don’t/won’t know your situation properly and sometimes what they offer might make you feel good but won’t solve anything.

Regarding FOS and TIO and all that - I’m surprised to see the dismissive attitude/bad experiences from other people here. My experiences have always been positive, often resulting in banks/telcos being penalised for bad behaviour and partial or full waivers/refunds being ordered etc. The banks aren’t their bosses, the banks are just forced to pay when FOS are called to make a decision (which is incentive for them to not let it get that far).

What I often see going wrong for people when they’re DIY-ing the FOS or TIO process is that they tend not to be very organised. They go at them with a belly full of fire but not many provable facts - hamstringing their own complaint. Lack of evidence is enough to get FOS/TIO to rule in the bank/telco’s favour. Also, sometimes, the reality is that even through the bank or telco has behaved completely terribly… they haven’t actually broken any laws, policies or guidelines.

To anyone who feels like FOS or TIO or all that lot are useless - I suggest you go see an experienced and genuinely ‘on your side’ advocate (mostly financial counsellors, sometimes specific disability or aged advocates) and get a handle on why your complaint failed and what would be needed for a more likely to succeed attempt (if it’s even possible).

A bank-owned ‘customer advocate’ would no WAY be allowed to ever point out where the bank has actually stuffed you (such as in the case of improper lending) or encourage you to take the matter further/explain what evidence you needed to gather for a successful complaint. So.

In summary: They’re useful to a point, in very specific circumstances, but still inferior to truly neutral outside advocates.


The details of the Centrelink fiasco could enlighten you as to why some people have a bad attitude to the ombudsmen services. There are simple and straightforward issues, and then there are others that should be but are not.


An interesting read and certainly an eye-catching headline. I can see why it would stir negative feelings.

A few points observed:

1: The particular accusation was against the Commonwealth Ombudsman who was investigating the “procedural fairness” of the system, not the legality. They recognised that DHS themselves were aware that due to the process, mistakes could and would happen and that a process of appealing and correcting those mistakes existed. Something can be legal without being efficient. Details matter. Sometimes, even just the detail of what exactly is being examined and why. They’re rarely broad ‘fishing for everything wrong’ investigations.

2: The guy making the accusation says himself that he only personally heard 6-12 cases in all his time serving on the tribunal and almost all of the appealed debts were dismissed - proving that the system works, if you go through with it, and also that his personal experience with the system was very low. Obviously, it’s still preferable for the system to be better designed in the first place - but that still doesn’t necessarily make the system ‘illegal’. If there was no recourse for dispute - THAT would be illegal. And finally;

3: The article uses words like ‘accused’ and puts quotations on words like “illegality” because of course, they are just accusations. Articles like this can stir outrage and we absolutely should be watchful for signs of our watchdog Ombudsman programs failing us… but we also should be watchful for incitement pieces that erode trust unnecessarily.

I guess at the end of the day, it does come down to personal experiences, shared media coverage and ‘feelings’. We either have positive/negative experiences or we hear about other people’s positive and negative experiences - and nobody goes on Today Tonight to remark on someone doing their job well.


While overseas in mid-December 2017, I was made aware of a bank overdraft that had been applied for in my name with ANZ. I am not an ANZ customer. Although I was unable to get the expected reply from the ANZ Customer Service people (something like "by making us aware of this information, the application for Credit is suspended), they advised that no action could be done till I fronted up to an ANZ branch to identify myself ( the wry irony being I was overseas and was not the applicant in any case).

Contacting the ANZ Customer Advocate started immediate action and follow-up and as it worked out, the ANZ Identity Fraud Team had already halted these applications, but the fact that it took contacting the Advocate to assist, raised eyebrows. In this instance, I found the Customer Advocates Office extremely valuable and useful to both myself and the Bank.


[quote=“Vonnible, post:9, topic:15335”]
“What I often see going wrong for people when they’re DIY-ing the FOS or TIO process is that they tend not to be very organised. They go at them with a belly full of fire but not many provable facts”[/quote]

There’s a lot of merit in that comment. It’s very understandable people who’ve been dudded by some company will feel fed up and angry, but ADR services like FOS/TIO can only deal with definable facts to fix a problem.

Call operators at these services are usually very good at explaining what’s wanted if the caller is unsure. So it may be best to make a preliminary call to get guidance if needed, before fronting up with an issue.


Had financial planners with the Commonwealth Bank. Lost a heap of money after investing at the start of the gfc and if we had kept the money under the mattress we would have been $50-60,000 better off than we ended up. Had the Open Advice procedure where we had one of their customer advocates from a law firm we selected from their list. This person was always polite and friendly, however, we didn’t get any benefit out of the process except a payment of about $230 where the Bank hadn’t paid out the correct amount in a transaction. We found that my signature had been forged on documents relating to advice on three occasions and when I advised this to the advocate he wasn’t at all concerned and nothing was done about it.


I agree with your comprehensive description.
I’ve had a number of significant issues that I referred to ANZ Customer Advocate & most made little difference to the previous outcome with the initial ANZ Dispute Resolution process. Fortunately there were 1 instance where I received a small "gesture of “good will” which is better than nothing.
However, on my most recent case the ANZ Customer Advocate Office told me “we are not here to advocate for customers”.
I was quite shocked by this & challenged them as to why they would mislead customers & title the position/office as an “advocate”. They had a very defensive & arrogant response to this question but very reluctantly agreed that maybe the title slightly misrepresented their role.
The Customer Advocate response suggested I contact FOS if I wasn’t happy with their response - which I wasn’t. But when I contacted FOS, I was advised it wasn’t within their “terms of reference”. So the Customer Advocate refused to address my issue & then knowingly referred me to FOS even though they knew it would be outside their terms. They were blatently misleading & obviously could not care less!


Side topic, but oh my gosh signatures are such a ridiculously outdated/insufficient legal/security feature. I hear this complaint a lot too, especially in relation to brokers (right behind ‘I signed a blank form because the broker said he’d sort it out later’) but it’s… really hard to prove. So much so that it’s almost not worth even trying.

Hey CHOICE, maybe one day we can have an investigation into better methods of contract-signing? :confused:


Oh wow @dezer1970 - that is shocking! The job title itself suggests that their purpose is precisely to advocate for customers. Wow.
Re FOS, that is also frustrating. Have you looked into the new Australian Financial Complaints Authority (AFCA) which is due to launch in November? It will replace FOS but will have slightly different terms of reference - I wonder whether your case might fall within AFCA’s terms of reference?


Here’s @AliceRichard’s report into banking customer advocates:


Based on the results coming out of the Banking RC you would probably start to think that the Advocates are not great for customers but are very effective as a PR drive for the Banks. So depending on which side of that border you sit you might think they are great or they are very poor, I will leave the way other people decide who sits on either side of the border to other’s own critical thinking :grin:


I was reading through a card offer today and followed some links looking for the ‘gotchas’. The issuing bank is changing the ‘Customer Advocates’ to ‘Customer Relations’ and removing a previous 3 days response and making it 21.

A conclusion could be that ‘bank customer advocates’ were just misunderstood because of their titles, and they have or are formally integrating with departments less suggestive of assisting customers.