Profile - Shane Tregillis
The new head of the Financial Ombudsman Service is deeply committed to consumer protection.
The new head of the Financial Ombudsman Service is deeply committed to consumer protection. When Shane Tregillis begins his new role next week as the financial services ombudsman, it marks another step in a career devoted to helping consumers and workers to get a better deal."It's the old-fashioned sense of public service," says Tregillis, 56, whose official title is chief ombudsman of the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS)."It's a much degraded term but it's something I'm proud of."FOS was established in 2008, from the merger of five organisations, including the Financial Industry Complaints Service and the Insurance Ombudsman Service. It provides a free dispute resolution service for consumers having problems with banks, insurers, financial planners, stockbrokers and other financial service providers.Last financial year, FOS handled 200,000 phone inquiries and took on 30,000 new cases. Despite the big workload, Tregillis says part of his role will be to lift its profile and increase consumer awareness of what the service does."It's a relatively new organisation and faces the usual challenges of a merged organisation," he says. "A solid direction has been set [under retiring chief ombudsman Colin Neave] but we're still in the early stages of becoming a single entity."Tregillis comes to the role with a long background at the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC), as well as eight years with Singapore's central bank. He started his career with a law/commerce degree from the University of Melbourne, followed by stints as a union industrial relations officer, at the Arbitration and Conciliation Commission and at a community labour organisation."What's always interested me is the intersection of law and economics," he says, explaining his early interest in industrial relations.In 1989, Tregillis joined ASIC's predecessor, the National Companies and Securities Commission, during the heady days of corporate booms and collapses. Over the next 13 years, Tregillis led various major projects, including a taskforce to help liquidity in the property trusts market after it collapsed in the early 1990s, and overseeing ASIC's submission to the 1996 Wallis Inquiry."I've had lots of opportunities to do very interesting things," the low-key Tregillis says.In 2001, he was headhunted to join the Monetary Authority of Singapore as deputy managing director of its market conduct division. Over the next eight years, he oversaw major reforms to Singapore's capital market regime, following the Asian financial crisis of 1997."You could feel the fundamental changes happening in the region, to economies, to social structures, and the emergence of China," he says. "Often you read history and in hindsight see the changes. But in Asia, you could feel the plates of the world moving."Tregillis returned to Melbourne in 2010 and was appointed an ASIC commissioner in May that year.His decision to leave just over a year later to join FOS prompted suggestions that he was disappointed to miss out on the ASIC chairman job to Greg Medcraft but he says that's just media speculation."I hadn't thought about it [the FOS job], it wasn't on my radar, but they approached me and the role is very complementary to ASIC," he says. "I see it as an extension, not a departure."See fos.org.au.THE BIG QUESTIONSBiggest break Spending eight years in Asia [with Singapore's Monetary Authority, from late 2001], during a period of great change in the region. It fundamentally altered my view of the world and reinforced to me the need for Australia to become much more Asia-literate.Biggest achievement There's not one single one. Overall, the ability to work with good people and lead diverse teams to do good things. When I've left [projects and jobs] I'm quite proud that I've left in place continuity, with great people to take over.Biggest regret At school, not really having the opportunity to learn an instrument or a language. As an adult, I'm still struggling with both [learning Mandarin, the clarinet and the saxophone]. It's quite humbling to be a beginner.Biggest investment I bought a house in my mid-20s [in Melbourne's inner north]. We didn't have much money but we managed to save up a deposit. We bought in the early '80s and owned it for about 10 years.Worst investment The flipside. After we bought the house, interest rates went up to 18 per cent. For the first couple of years it looked like our worst investment.Attitude to money I've always known I had to earn a living to support myself and my family and save enough for retirement. I'm quite conservative.Personal philosophy Do some public good. Try and do good things and treat people, the environment and the world with respect. And if you can't, do as little harm as possible.