Four lessons for aged care from financial services

6 minute read  31.03.2021 Siobhan Doherty, Donna Worthington

The aged care and financial services sectors have both recently been through Royal Commissions. And while there are many differences between the two sectors, there are also some key similarities. Based on our experience in both aged care and financial services, our multi-disciplinary team has identified key lessons for the aged care sector to take forward.


In the two years since the Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry released its final report, the financial services sector has been evolving and changing to rebuild community trust. The aged care sector's journey is just beginning, with the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety releasing its final report at the end of February. When looking at both sets of recommendations around governance, culture and accountability, there are some key similarities – and some lessons that the aged care sector can learn from financial services.

A common theme: focusing on the individual's outcomes and experiences

In financial services it is the customers or consumers. In aged care it is the clients or residents. But in both cases, their outcomes and experiences are critical to success. One of the major priorities that both Royal Commissions identified was the need to put the people that the sectors serve at the centre of their care and services. This is a fundamental principle that many argued had been lost. Data and reporting can play an important role in understanding the needs, outcomes and experiences of customers or clients.

Key differences between aged care and financial services

Before exploring the lessons, it's important to note that there are some key differences between the two sectors. The obvious one is that financial institutions typically have much deeper pockets and, on the whole, have been able to dedicate significant resources towards change programs coming out of the issues identified in their Royal Commission. For the aged care sector, funding is still yet to be determined and is dependent on government support – which is due to be clarified in the federal budget announcement in May this year.

A second key difference is that the extent of regulatory change faced by financial institutions following the Royal Commission was different to what the aged care sector is now facing. While the financial services regulatory regime underwent (and continues to undergo) significant change, the broader regulatory framework and the regulators have remained consistent. In the aged care context, there's a desire for fast but wholesale regulatory reform to fix the serious issues identified, and at the same time, providers are going to need time, resources and support to be in a position to comply with the new requirements. That tension didn't exist to the same extent in the financial services context.

Notwithstanding those differences, however, there are still some key similarities – and some important lessons that aged care can learn from financial services.

Lesson 1: Understand the value of strong culture and clear accountability

Culture – and the tone that influences it – is set at the top of the organisation. Financial services organisations have sought to make radical changes to organisational culture in the two years since the Royal Commission findings were released. These include introducing accountability frameworks and an active 'rolling up of sleeves' at board and senior management levels to focus on culture and accountability, with a trickledown effect into the rest of the organisation.

In a practical context, a cultural change program requires strong sponsorship from the outset around who will have accountability for owning and driving each initiative. Questions to be addressed include:

  • What is the governance around this program?
  • How will we make multiple decisions in an agile and efficient way?

By being really clear about where accountability sits within the organisation, financial services organisations have been able to drive greater focus and prioritisation around longstanding issues within their organisation. Aged care organisations could also benefit from similar accountability frameworks.

Strong leadership and clear accountability are particularly important to maintain in the longer term to ensure that old practices do not reappear.

Lesson 2: Focus on the opportunities that the Royal Commission has presented

The Royal Commission's findings offer a real opportunity for the aged care sector to get the regulatory and cultural reform and funding that it needs to transform. Financial services organisations that saw implementation of the recommendations as more than a 'tick the box' exercise (i.e. as an opportunity to make meaningful, impactful changes) are the ones that seem to be achieving the best outcomes. Aged care organisations have an opportunity to take proactive, positive steps and to bring about effective, permanent change that filters through the organisation to residents.


“Commissioner Briggs said life is to be lived and we all have a fundamental right to wellbeing, enjoyment and fulfilment as we age. There's an enormously exciting opportunity for us to reform and have ambition along those lines.”
Tracey Burton, Executive Director, UnitingCare (NSW/ACT)


Organisations will see the best outcomes if they embrace this opportunity as a pivot point to transform the way they operate – rather than as a compliance exercise alone.

Lesson 3: Develop a roadmap that aligns to your core purpose

When considering the 148 recommendations made in the Aged Care Royal Commission, it can be hard for organisations to know where to begin. The financial services sector faced 76 recommendations – not nearly as many, but still a challenge!

To take the next steps, organisations can start to map out the recommendations that are relevant and important to their organisation. This includes conducting a gap analysis against the current state within the organisation and considering the interdependencies between those gaps and the program of work. This will enable organisations to prioritise smartly, as resources are going to be constrained.

Organisations can also prioritise the easy wins – for example, looking at systems and processes they already have, which might need minor tweaks, such as complaints management. Looking for 'low hanging fruit' that can be meaningfully addressed and add some real value, without necessarily having to do an entire transformation, will be an important first step for organisations.

Lesson 4: Take your people on the journey with you

Aged care staff have faced a challenging period of time while battling through the impacts of COVID-19, the loss of residents and the impact on their families.

In order to make the changes introduced by the Royal Commission meaningful and impactful, staff need to understand what they're about to embark on and why, what the impact will be to them and what the organisation is expecting of them.

This is critical because aged care is a people business and it is important to ensure that good staff are retained. People can be empowered by understanding the role that they're going play in this transformation, and with proper buy-in and understanding of the organisation's destination, they will do their part to help the organisation get there.


“The magic happens when the care worker and the nurse go through the door.”
Kevin McCoy, CEO Independent and Assisted Living at Australian Unity


Bringing energy to implementing the reforms

The aged care sector, while early in the journey of its Royal Commission rollout, has a great opportunity to apply the governance, accountability and cultural lessons from sectors who have been through similar journeys. It is key for the aged care sector to come together and to drive and bring energy to the implementation of the reforms.

Contact us to find out more about the four lessons for aged care, and how we can help with your next steps.


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