The Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Sector put the spotlight on unacceptable practices that need to be stamped out in the banking and finance sector. Now that the Report has been handed down, what can banks and financial organisations do to make real change?

With over a decade of experience of facilitating Root Cause Analysis (RCA) in the finance sector, we have some suggestions that if implemented by organisations, could really make a positive difference.

1.Fix the underlying root causes of the problem

Don’t just fix the symptoms of the problem, fix the root causes. Organisations that just deal with the symptoms of the problem will find that the problem doesn’t go away. For example, providing a dispute resolution process for a customer complaint may help to resolve that complaint, but until the matters that underlie that complaint are dealt with, more complaints are likely to follow. Take a deep dive into the problem and look at the systems, procedural and cultural issues that lie behind the human conduct.

  1. Review your “solution focused” approach

When faced with a big problem, there are 3 key questions to answer

  1. What is the problem?
  2. What are the root causes of the problem?
  3. How can we fix the problem?

Some organisations go straight from question 1 (what is the problem?) to question 3 (what is the solution?) and miss question 2 (what are the root causes of the problem?). This generally results in the continuation of the problem because remedial action is not designed appropriately to respond to the full range of issues that are creating the problem. Whilst moving from problem straight to solution might seem like the quickest route and the best use of resources, it is not a sophisticated approach. When the problem continues and grows, history shows that earlier and more thoughtful intervention (which forensically analyses the problem) is more cost effective.

  1. Create clear lines of accountability for problem solving

If there is a lack of clear accountability, then problems can fall between departments and it’s easy for people to avoid responsibility. When everyone is defending their own patch, and there is a lack of clarity around who is responsible for what, then problems can fester, and grow without coming under the relevant spotlight. Take a look at your KPI’s for senior executives. Is there a shared obligation to collaborate to resolve and prevent problems and issues?

  1. Include problem solving as part of your corporate strategy

Commencing the year with a clear strategy is common sense, but if the strategy doesn’t include proactively managing problems, then there is limited scope for executives to undertake root cause analysis when unexpected problems do occur. Instead, include problem solving as part of your corporate strategy and instil it into your culture through training and education.

  1. Spread the financial responsibility for problem solving

Don’t penalise departments by requiring them to fund their own problem solving initiatives. Problems generally have their origins in more than one department and impact over many departments. Therefore, problem solving should be a whole of organisation cost, not a departmental cost.

  1. Use positive language to encourage buy-in

We tend to reframe many of our initiatives to help people feel comfortable about engaging on projects. For example, instead of a facilitated discussion about “the invoicing problems” we inspire people to join our discussion on “revenue capture opportunities.” Instead of a meeting about “customer complaints” we invite people to a discussion on “brand loyalty”. Reframing negatives to positives helps to create the optimal environment for creative thinking and problem solving.

  1. Embrace AFCA as a helpful resource

The Australian Financial Complaints Authority (AFCA) is a newly formed umbrella organisation bringing together the Financial Ombudsman Service, the Credit & Investments Ombudsman and the Superannuation Complaints Tribunal. It provides consumers and small businesses with free, fair and independent dispute resolution for financial complaints. From the industry perspective, we recommend viewing AFCA as a friend not a foe. A storehouse of information on internal complaint resolution systems, effective dispute resolution practices and resources for managing complex issues. You can subscribe to receive AFCA news alerts here

  1. Stop blaming people

When your systems are broken (and there are obvious signs) the next thing you need to do is fix them. It’s not difficult. Stop making excuses. Stop blaming someone else. Take a good look at the problem. Identify the root causes. Put measures in place to prevent the problem from arising in the future. Your customers will be grateful. Your staff will be relieved. Your complaints will decrease. It’s not rocket science!


We are passionate about continuous improvement and have many years experience using Root Cause Analysis to achieve positive outcomes. Please contact us for information about our in-house training opportunities or to facilitate your next problem solving initiative.


By Nicole Cullen, Mediator.
Nicole is a member of the Australasian Association of Workplace Investigators (AAWI).