AFA Awards

Celebrating excellence - AFA Excellence in Education Award

We’re delighted to support the AFA Excellence in Education Award for the 11th consecutive year. Over this time we’ve seen an increasing focus on adviser education driven by consumer awareness, regulatory reform and the collective realisation of the growing importance of education.

Our ten previous Award recipients had told us that striving for higher standards delivers better outcomes for their clients, their business and the wider community. They know that improving their professional skills and knowledge can lead to a higher quality of advice and stronger client relationships.

It’s why we’re delighted to get behind the AFA Excellence in Education Award year-after-year.

If you’re committed to further education and pursuing higher professional standards then we invite you to submit a nomination for the 2018 AFA Excellence in Education Award.


AFA Excellence in Education Award

The AFA Excellence in Education Award is dedicated to recognising, supporting and rewarding commitment and excellence in advice through participation in further education. We want to discover and reward advice professionals who undertake the challenge of acquiring knowledge, and then applying this knowledge to their business, their clients, their industry and their community.

The AFA Excellence in Education Award recognises the efforts of individuals in striving for greater professionalism in their day to day work.

The national finalists will be announced at the AFA National Roadshow held throughout July. The winner will be announced at the AFA National Conference from 10-12 October 2018.

Consumer confidence starts with the knowledge and the comfort that their adviser has the professional training, the “education” necessary to meet their needs.

Education is not just the acquisition of knowledge, it is the skills, values, beliefs and habits necessary to demonstrate the true value of advice. 

Through it’s association with Asteron Life, the AFA is proud to recognise those professionals who go above and beyond, to demonstrate that the core of great advice is the commitment to excellence in education, to further the outcome of great advice for more Australians.

Philip Kewin
Chief Executive Officer

Association of Financial Advisers
More Information

For more information on the award, speak to your Asteron Life Sales Team.

Alternatively, you can send us an email with your enquiry to:

Association of Financial Advisers Ltd

Phone: 02 9267 4003


How is the award judged?

The Excellence in Education Award is about celebrating the wonderful job advisers do every day to help Australians make better decisions for their financial future.

Through the judging process we really want to understand how you continually invest in your education and practically apply this when working with your clients.

This award is more than just your academic qualification but importantly about the practical application of your knowledge.

So let's take a look at how the award is judged.

  • Stage one:Review of all nominations
    • The national judging panel sits down and reviews all of the nominations.
    • We make an initial decision on who has best demonstrated professionalism and the continual application of education in their practice. This is based on:
      • your academic qualifications
      • your application of knowledge
      • your commitment to the future of the profession.
  • Stage two:Shortlisted nominees are interviewed
    • Short-listed advisers have a phone-based interview with one of the national judging panel. This helps us get to know you better and understand how you practically apply knowledge within your business.
    • We really like to hear how you have improved the lives of clients through your investment in education.
    • The national judging panel meets to discuss all of the short-listed nominees and uses a quantitative model to determine the national finalists. This includes:
      • Your academic achievements
      • Applying knowledge within the practice
      • Your contribution and involvement within the industry
      • Your contribution and involvement within your local community
  • Stage three:National finalists are announced
    • National finalists are announced at the AFA National Roadshow in July.
    • All national finalists are flown to Sydney for a personal interview with the national judging panel. The interview focuses on your views and ideas on how education can make a major contribution in the promotion and delivery of financial advice to consumers.
    • Finalists will be asked to prepare and present their views and solutions on an industry challenge. This will be set by the National Panel and based on improving professionalism of the industry.
  • Stage four:National winner is announced
    • The Excellence in Education national winner is announced at the AFA National Conference at a special award ceremony on the main platform.
    • The national winner is inducted into the Education Ambassador Role for the next 12 months to promote the continual investment in education.
    • The award winner is then invited to the AFA GenXt road show.

Who are the panel of judges?

Julio Cagigas

Julio Cagigas

National Key Accounts and Service Manager, Asteron Life

Brian Knight

Brian Knight

CEO Kaplan Professional

Michael Nowak

Michael Nowak

AFA Vice President

Phil Kewin

Phil Kewin


Jenny Brown

Jenny Brown

Director JBS Financial Strategist & 2013 AFA Adviser of the Year

Meena Sanker

Meena Sankar

Manager, Campus AFA

Here's how to take the first step to become the next winner of the AFA Excellence in Education Award. Or why not nominate someone who you believe deserves the Award?

How to enter

Entering is easy. Simply, complete the initial nomination form by clicking on the 'nominate now' button by 15 June 2018. The form requires a short, simple submission.

From there our team will be in contact with the nominee to collect the remaining information for the Award submission. (This may be you if you have nominated yourself.)

How are winners decided?

National winners will be judged on their answers to questions about their education and their application of knowledge in their practice, industry and local community. During the judging process, we will request copies of your academic records to help make a decision. For further details, please refer to the 'Selection Criteria' section.

National finalists will be announced at AFA National Roadshow held throughout July.

The finalists will be interviewed by the judging panel, to decide the national award winner.

The winner will be announced at the AFA National Conference, 10-12 October, 2018.

Current winner

Congratulations to the latest winner of the AFA Excellence in Education Award.


Michael Ward

Michael is a Director at Maxim Private Wealth in Subiaco and has over 15 years experience in the Financial Services Industry.

Michael has a Masters of Financial Planning and is a member of the Financial Planning Association of Australia, the SMSF Association and the Association of Financial Advisers Australia. He is also currently studying CFP.

Michael is passionate about education. This is evident through his work as a mentor, coaching young and aspiring advisers as well as his work running financial literacy sessions for the public.

He is a regular columnist on money matters for the West Australian newspaper where he actively promotes the financial advice industry.

Apart from his work, Michael has been involved in the Australian Army Reserves for 10 years and likes to raise money for the Australian Doctors to Africa charity.

Michael is married with a young family.


Previous winners


Stephen Nielsen

Stephen Nielsen has been in the financial services industry for 30 years, with 22 of those in financial advice. Stephen’s journey has seen him transition from being an employed adviser into the area of regional and project management with a large institutional licencee, as well as providing business coaching and practice management support to self-employed advice practices across a multiple licencee organisation.

Stephen is passionate about people and finding out what makes them tick. Deciding in 2007 that he wasn’t “done” with having a direct impact on the lives of clients, Stephen acquired the client group that was to form the operating core for his current practice, Ascent Wealth Management.

Education has always formed the cornerstone of Stephen’s journey. His studies at Diploma, Undergraduate, Graduate Diploma and Master’s level support the business and corporate aspects of his work, and he has honed his advice technical skills through further diploma studies.

Stephen believes that “education is very important because (our) career paths are not linear these days. We don’t have a job for life, we can’t expect to start from the bottom and work our way up – there are zigzags along the way. So the ability to adapt and change is going to be very important for financial advisers, and for anyone in any career. Education gets you equipped to make those changes, to zigzag and get you where you want to be”.

With a passion for the industry, a thirst for learning and a positive outlook for the future, Stephen looks forward to the opportunities the industry’s changing landscape will provide moving forward.

2016 AFA Winner Stephen Nielsen


Charles Badenach

Charles has been recognised for his unique perspective on the rapidly changing world of professional services, and his firm belief that education is the key to lifting the standard of financial advice in Australia. Charles has spent his career in professional services firstly as a lawyer and now as a financial adviser. He worked at the ASX listed Shadforth Financial Group for over 13 years and is currently a Principal and Private Client Adviser with boutique firm Main Street Financial Solutions.

2015 afa winner charles badenach


Peter O'Callaghan CFP, Dip FP, M Fin Serv Law JP (Qual)

Peter's experience includes more than 18 years as a Financial Planner, beginning his career at a major Australian bank before moving into private practice. He has since held senior financial planning positions in private banking and a corporate superannuation fund, and management positions with Rabo Financial Advisers and State Super Financial Services Australia, before establishing his own ‘fee for service’ financial planning business in 2009. In June 2012 he merged his growing practice with MSI Taylor Financial Services Pty Ltd to form MSI Taylor Wealth Management Pty Ltd, a 'fee for service' business with a wide range of specialist financial planning services.

2014 afa winner peter ocallaghan


Anne Graham

Anne’s commitment to education and professional development can be seen through her work and personal life. She has completed a Masters of Applied Finance and is a Certified Practising Accountant and Certified Financial Planner. She specialises in goal planning, business planning and financial planning matters. Anne has been involved in financial services for over 30 years, and has been practicing as a financial planner since 1999. She is currently the Managing Director of McPhail HLG Financial Planning.


Dean Lombardo

Dean’s commitment to education and professional development can be seen through his work and personal life. He is the co-founder of Access Financial Management, and founder of a unique financial planning methodology known as “benchmarking”, which provides clients with greater empowerment and shifts the adviser-client relationship to one of true mentoring and coaching through the use of accountable milestones and the integration of adult learning theory. Benchmarking has now been adopted at the financial planning model of choice within several boutique financial planning practices across Victoria.

He is also a motivational speaker, mentor to financial planners and business owners, and staunch advocate for financial literacy.


Finn Kelly

Finn is committed to ongoing education and professional development. He is the CEO and co-founder of one of Australia’s premier boutique private wealth management firms, Wealth Enhancers, which specialises in providing tailored advice to a select group of high income earning and high net worth individuals. He heads up the Portfolio Management arm of the business, and has developed unique client education and staff training programs.


Katherine Hunt

Katherine was our 2010 AFA Student of the Year awardee. Her strong academic background has seen her successfully complete multiple Bachelor degrees in Psychological Science, Commerce and Financial (Honours) at Griffith University, where she was a recipient of the University Medal.

Katherine is continuing her studies to develop life skills, critical and creative thinking, and contribute to financial planning.


Dr Dennis Maddern

Dr. Dennis was chosen as our 2009 AFA Student of the Year, for his commitment to lifelong learning. He has been recognised for the continual improvement of his advice skills and applying this knowledge to his business, clients and community.


Jo Bean

Jo completed her Diploma in Financial Services (Financial Planning) with RG146 Training Australia in 2008. She took out the 2008 AFA Student of the Year award in recognition of her commitment to developing exceptional advisory skills.


2018 Finalists


Helen Russo

Helen has built a career spanning more than 20 years as a Certified Financial Planner with Fitzpatricks Private Wealth.

Over the years, Helen has provided advice across a broad area including investment planning, superannuation & SMSF, risk management, retirement planning, home & aged care as well as estate planning.

Helen is passionate about further education and has a long list of qualifications and specialist accreditations including a Master’s in Financial Planning, Advanced Diploma FP, along with SMSF, Home & Aged Care and ALPA ASX accreditations.

Helen also holds a Diploma of Life Coaching, and has a special interest in understanding behaviours and perceptions that impact decision making and financial wellbeing.

Helen enjoys applying her broad skills and experience to help clients take positive steps to improve their financial situation.

In her spare time Helen mentors and runs financial education training.



Michael Fox

Michael is a highly qualified, motivated and focused adviser who strives to deliver best practice outcomes for his Main Street clients. He specialises in providing strategic advice to busy professionals, self-funded retirees and motivated young professionals.

Michael holds a Bachelor of Business degree, Graduate Diploma of Financial Planning, SMSF accreditation and has completed the Certified Financial Planner and Life Risk Specialist studies.

He is a member of the Financial Planning Association of Australia, the Association of Financial Advisers and is also a registered Tax (Financial) Adviser.

Michael has a special interest in how innovation and technology can be applied to enhance client outcomes and enjoys supporting community service organisations and charities.

He is a Director on the board of a not-for-profit organisation, Montagu Community Living, and also assists with a number of charities’ sub-committees including IMPACT 100 Tasmania and the Make a Wish Foundation.



Dean Loosmore

Dean Loosmore is a Director at Lio Adviser Centre in Boyne Island, Queensland and has more than ten years’ experience in tax, accounting & financial planning advice.

His dedication to his clients is matched by a determination to attain the highest level of professional qualifications. Dean believes that ongoing education allows him to deliver a higher quality of advice for his clients.

Dean has a Bachelor of Business, Diploma of Financial Planning and Advanced Diploma of Financial Planning, is a Certified Financial Planner® and soon will complete his Masters of Financial Planning.

Dean belongs to a number of professional associations including CFP®, FPA, the AFA and the Institute of Public Accountants.

Dean regularly volunteers his time to community care initiatives with his local church, gives advice free of charge to not-for-profit organisations, and works pro-bono for clients who desperately need financial advice—particularly the elderly and single parent families.



Felicity Cooper

Felicity Cooper is an award-winning Investment Manager, Financial Adviser, Entrepreneur and Speaker and has worked in the Industry for nearly two decades.

Felicity is the Founder of Cooper Wealth Management and The Financial Woman, and has a client base that extends across Australia. Passionate and self-driven, Felicity works hard to help her clients reach their financial goals.

Felicity holds a Bachelor of Business degree in Accounting. She also has a Diploma in Financial Planning, a Graduate Diploma in Applied Finance and has recently completed her Master of Financial Planning.

Her talents have been recognised by the AFP, naming her a finalist for the coveted Adviser of the Year Award. She received a Merit Award for Gold Coast Business Woman of the Year 2017, and was named Australian Investment Manager of the Year in the Women in Financial Services Awards.

On the speaker’s circuit, Felicity is consistently ranked in the top three speakers by the Australian Investors Association. She enjoys giving talks at the Australian Shareholders Association and the Independent Retirees Association.



Caleb Dozzi

Caleb Dozzi is a highly experienced financial adviser with more than 15 years’ experience in the financial planning industry.

He first entered the industry as a teenager working in administration and moved on to work in a variety of roles across financial planning businesses.

In 2007 he founded ‘dozzi’, an Independent Financial Planning Company. Caleb is now Managing Director of dozzi and works closely with a small team of four highly skilled professionals.

Caleb qualified as a Certified Financial Planner at 22 years of age and holds a Bachelor of Commerce in Financial Planning and Investments and a Master of Business Administration.

In 2018 he was awarded Young Achiever of the Year by Money Management, and later that year was named Director of the Year by Momentum Media at the Young Leaders in Finance Awards.





Asteron Life™ is committed to providing customers with long term financial security. We provide life insurance products including Income Protection Covers, Trauma Cover, Total & Permanent Disablement (TPD) Cover, Life Cover and Business Expenses Cover. To obtain a copy of our privacy statement, please contact us on 1800 221 727 or visit the following website to view or download the policy.

Suncorp supports and adheres to the Life Insurance Code of Practice (Code). The Code has been developed voluntarily by the Life Insurance industry through the Financial Services Council to promote high standards of service to consumers, provide a benchmark of consistency within the industry, and establish a framework for professional behaviour and responsibilities. Download the Code here. For more information contact the Financial Services Council on (02) 9299 3022 (local call cost), email or visit