Felicity Cooper, Cooper Wealth Management director, has been in the industry since 1996 and started as an accountant.
But it was in university one of her lecturers led her to change her path, which culminated in her becoming Money Management’s 2018 Women in Financial Services Financial Planner of the Year, and now Money Management's Financial Planner of the Year for 2019.
“One of my lecturers said, ‘you talk too much and you’re a big picture person, you should be in broking’,” Cooper said.
After getting into stockbroking with JBWere and then Macquarie, she thought broking was still only a small part of what makes a difference.
“It’s great to get the investments, but if you don’t get the strategy right, the investments don’t matter,” Cooper said.
“That’s what led me down to the financial planning part: here’s the big picture, here’s the strategy section which makes most of the difference, here’s the asset allocation, the rules and how to put it all together.”
“Then I can bring in the investment part that says, ‘okay now we know what’s meant to be over here, how do we make that work as well for you as we possibly can.’ I love it.”
For Cooper, having her own Australian Financial Services License (AFSL) defies any other achievement that comes after it.
“It’s meant I’ve been able to give the service I wanted to give in an independent way,” Cooper said.
She believed contribution to the financial planning profession beyond the requirements of the job is important, because the profession is seen as a whole, not just as one person.
“If you can contribute to the shaping of the profession and modelling the behaviour you’d like to see in the profession, then we’d all get better from it,” Cooper said.
“I’ve just finished the roadshow with the Association of Financial Advisers (AFA), that was talking to financial planners all around the country on how to embrace change and the very rapidly changing environment, as well as the FASEA requirements.”
She helped set up the Facebook group “FASEA because I said I would”, which is meant to guide financial planners through preparations for the exam.
“When I sit the exam, because I’ll be one of the first people in the country to do it when it first gets released, [I’ll know] what I’ve learned from doing that in terms of what you really need to study, what it contains, how practical is it versus how textbook is it,” Cooper said.
Having won the AFA Excellence in Education Award, Cooper has embraced the need for a high standard for education in the industry.
“All of the planners in my firm have either done their Masters, which is what I’ve done, or are certified financial planners (CFPs) and have done additional study,” Cooper said.
“It’s something we had done beforehand, because we have a strong belief that to give clients the best service you should be as educated as you possibly can be.”
As well as education, building trust with clients was crucial and Cooper said without trust, you shouldn’t have clients.
“They’re trusting us with their entire savings, their future ability to retire, reach their goals, and do what they really wanted to do,” Cooper said.