Financial Planning

Breaking down financial barriers for women

11 February 2019

Jayson Forrest

Jayson Forrest is the managing editor of Money & Life Magazine.

As the FPA Financial Planner AFP® Professional of the Year Award winner, Felicity Cooper AFP® takes financial literacy seriously, spreading her message of financial empowerment to more Australian women.

Name: Felicity Cooper AFP®

Age: 43

Educational qualifications: MSAA, BBus, BA, GradDipAppFin, ADA2, AFP®, DFP, MFP

Position: Director and Financial Planner

Practice: Cooper Wealth Management

Licensee: Cooper Wealth Management

Years as a financial planner: 22 years

For a small self-licensed business operating out of its Gold Coast office on the Isle of Capri, Cooper Wealth Management consistently punches well above its weight. And with two of its staff members, including its founder Felicity Cooper AFP®, winning awards at the 2018 FPA Awards, the business must be doing something right.

As the winner of the 2018 FPA Financial Planner AFP® Professional of the Year Award, Felicity says being a runner-up for this award in 2017 and finally winning it in 2018, shows that she is on the right track.

“Being a self-licensed small business is tough. So, being reviewed and approved by my peers is wonderful recognition for the work my staff and I are doing,” Felicity says.

And the judges agreed, commenting that Felicity put herself in strong contention from the very start of the awards process due to the high standard of her submitted SOA, which was “exceptional” and “clearly stood out” from other entries.

In fact, 2018 caps off a successful year for the Gold Coast planner, with Felicity also taking out an industry Excellence in Education award, adding this to her increasingly growing list of achievements, which includes Financial Planner of the Year in the 2018 Women in Financial Services Awards, Awardee of Merit for Gold Coast Business Woman of the Year 2017, and finalist for the Australian Investment Manager of the Year in the Women in Financial Services Awards.

“I didn’t enter the FPA Awards seeking personal recognition for the work I do, because that’s just what I do as a financial planner everyday. Instead, I wanted to showcase the extent of the client relationships we’re building at Cooper Wealth through the quality of advice and service we offer our clients,” she says.

“With my colleague Kearsten James CFP® LRS® taking out the FPA Paraplanner of the Year Award and with my FPA Financial Planner AFP® Professional of the Year Award, it demonstrates that the staff at Cooper Wealth are punching well above our size, which is a wonderful badge of honour for our business.”

The Financial Woman

As the winner of the FPA Financial Planner AFP® Professional of the Year Award, Felicity’s energy and enthusiasm for the profession is infectious.

In addition to running her practice, Felicity has set up The Financial Woman – an Australian online movement that is seeking to break down the barriers for women around financial matters and empower women of all ages to truly change their lives.

“The Financial Woman is a website that connects women with compelling conversations and expert commentary from a carefully selected panel of industry experts, while also providing women with the resources and tools that will help them take charge of their bank balances and their financial heart beat.”

Through this website, Felicity is aiming to create Australia’s largest online community, teaching women how to earn better, spend, plan, give and live with “intent, purpose and passion”.

“I am truly passionate about financial planning and particularly want to empower more women to take control of their own financial futures through improved financial literacy,” she says. “As a profession, we need to better understand that women respond differently to wealth, which means we have to change the way in which we talk to them about wealth creation. That’s what I’m doing with The Financial Woman.”

Adding to her already exhaustive work schedule, Felicity is also actively involved in mentoring young planners and participates in Griffith University and Bond University’s internship programs. Her firm has also been a strong supporter of the Cancer Council’s Pro Bono Financial Planning Referral Service and Felicity is taking her financial literacy program to women in rural Australia, alongside the Australian Shareholders’ Association, through a grant they have received.

“My personal vision for the future is to dominate our area as a small independent licensee,” she confidently says. “And I believe I’m well on the way to achieving that.”

Line in the sand

As part of Felicity’s plans to dominate her market, she is under no illusion that change is inevitable in the profession. And while she welcomes the improved professional standards that will flow on from the Royal Commission and FASEA’s education requirements, which she says are the “line in the sand” that the profession needed, she also views generational change as being a challenge for the industry.

“The next generation of clients is going to be a challenge for many planners and businesses,” she says. “This generation responds differently to advice than previous generations. We need to understand and adapt our advice offering to their needs, which includes how they consume information and use technology.

“Those businesses that fail to adapt, will fail. And with more Australians needing quality advice, that’s going to be a challenge for us all.”

Start early with skills

And what advice does she have for individuals aspiring to join the profession?

“Simple,” she says. “Start early!”

“Try and work part-time in a practice while studying. By doing so, you will be receiving practical, hands-on experience, which is perhaps more valuable than straight text book learning. And importantly, you will be learning essential people skills that universities simply don’t teach. These skills are an invaluable part of succeeding in this profession.”

And with Felicity’s outlook on life and business, it’s hard to disagree with her.


The FPA congratulates the runners-up of the FPA Financial Planner AFP® Professional of the Year Award:

 James O’Reilly AFP®Northeast Wealth (Vic)

Sandra Slattery AFP®Commonwealth Financial Planning (NSW)