AFA Awards

Celebrating excellence - AFA Excellence in Education Award

Asteron Life is delighted to again partner with the AFA for the Excellence in Education Award for what is the ninth year running. The award recognises an outstanding commitment to and excellence in advice through participation in further education.

We recognise the importance of ongoing education and believe this forms the foundation to building a strong and well respected profession. By striving for continual improvement in their own professional development, advisers can support the advancement of the entire industry.

Whether you are starting out in the industry – or have been around since it began – continuing education is the key to constantly increasing the professionalism when providing financial advice, so join us in celebrating excellence.

Mark Vilo

Executive Manager
Asteron Life

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 your effort in building a solid foundation to achieve great heights within your profession.

The national finalists will be announced at the AFA National Roadshow held throughout July. And the national winner will be announced at the AFA National Conference to be held in Canberra from 5-7 October 2016.

Increasing consumer perceptions about professionalism in financial advice is a key to growing the advice market. The AFA views professionalism as a combination of Education and Behaviour and this is why we have built the AFA's Education Pathway. The Excellence in Education Award highlights to advisers the issue of "continual learning" and with the support of Asteron the evidence is obvious that advisers do have a thirst to learn and are raising the bar on standards across the financial advice profession.


Brad Fox, AFA President

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 all about showcasing you. We aim to promote the wonderful job advisers do every day in helping Australians make better decisions for their financial future. The Award is a showcase of excellence in education and professionalism.

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 in February 2017.

Who are the panel of judges?

nick hakes afa awards judge

Nick Hakes

Head of Campus AFA, Association of Financial Advisers

brian knight afa awards judge

Brian Knight

CEO Kaplan Professional

dan waller afa awards judge

Dan Waller

National Key Accounts / Channel Development Manager, Asteron Life

jenny brown afa awards judge

Jenny Brown

National Vice President, AFA

Here's how to take the first step to becoming 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 10 June 2016. 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.(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 national winner will be announced at the AFA National Conference to be held in Canberra from 5 - 7 October 2016.


Current winner

Below is the latest winner of the AFA Excellence in Education Award.


Charles Badenach

Charles Badenach has a unique perspective on the rapidly changing world of professional services, and is a firm believer 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 the boutique firm “Main Street Financial Solutions”.

Previous winners

Below are the previous winners of the AFA Excellence in Education Award and the AFA Student of the Year Award.


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.

Peter O'Callaghan has since held senior financial planning positions in private banking, and a major Corporate superannuation fund; management positions with Rabo Financial Advisers (Regional Manager Nthn NSW/QLD) and State Super Financial Services Australia, (Regional Manager QLD), before making the decision to establish his own financial planning business in 2009, based on a 'fee for service' offering.

2014 saw Peter be awarded the AFA Excellence in Education award and in 2011 he won the ASTUTE Group Financial Planner of the Year award. He merged his growing practice with MSI Taylor Financial Services Pty Ltd to form MSI Taylor Wealth Management Pty Ltd in June 2012, a 'fee for service' business with a wide range of specialist financial planning services.

Peter has completed financial planning studies through the Securities Institute, holds a Diploma of Financial Planning (Dip FP) from Deakin University, a Certificate in SMSF studies from the University of Adelaide, and is a Certified Financial Planner.

He also has a Master of Financial Services Law from Macquarie University Law School in Sydney and is currently enrolled in the Master of Business (Professional Accounting) through the QLD University of Technology.

Peter's interests include economics, and investing, and in his spare time, he is a Commissioned Officer in the Royal Australian Air Force Reserves.
He is also a Justice of the Peace (Qualified).

2014 afa winner peter ocallaghan


Anne Graham

Anne successfully claimed last year’s AFA Excellence in Education Award. Anne’s commitment to education and professional development can be seen through her work and personal life. She recently 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 a financial planner since 1999 and involved in financial services for over 30 years. She is currently the Managing Director of McPhail HLG Financial Planning.

Anne is passionate about providing quality financial planning advice to her clients and making a positive difference to their financial future. She is also on a mission to encourage planners and their teams to continue their ongoing education.

And, it doesn’t stop there, Anne is an active member of the financial planning community including various committees, advisory boards and social media. Furthermore, she has one a number of awards including, Securitor National Adviser of the Year in 2011 and Money Management Financial Planner of the year in 2009.


Dean Lombardo

Dean successfully claimed last year’s AFA Excellence in Education Award. Dean’s commitment to education and professional development can be seen through his work and personal life. He holds a Bachelor of Commerce, Diploma of Financial Planning and is a Certified Financial Planner. He is a motivational speaker specialising in goal planning, business planning and financial planning matters.

Dean is the co-founder of Access Financial Management, a financial services business offering integrated financial planning solutions based in Melbourne. He is also the founder of a unique financial planning methodology known as “benchmarking”. Benchmarking 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.

In addition, Dean is also actively involved in the mentoring of financial planners and business owners. He is a member on several boards of advice both within the financial services industry and external. His passion is in working with others to help them clarify and create their personal vision then mentoring them to success.

Aside from being involved within the financial planning industry, Dean is actively involved in financial literacy, including the development of a program for primary school aged children, and more recently is involved in supporting a small orphanage in Vietnam with a view to assisting with education and initiating micro lending assistance as the children reach adulthood. Dean’s motto is “when you ask the right question, the answer will present itself”.


Finn Kelly

Finn rose to the top and successfully claimed last year’s AFA Excellence in Education Award. Finn is committed to ongoing education and professional development. His formal qualifications include a Bachelor of Science majoring in Maths and Physics, a Diploma of Financial Services (Financial Planning), a Graduate Diploma of Education (Secondary), a Diploma of Government and a Diploma of Management.

Finn is the CEO and co-founder of one of Australia’s premier boutique private wealth management firms, Wealth Enhancers. The firm specialises in providing tailored advice to a select range 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 from Queensland rose to the top and successfully claimed 2010 Student of the Year.

Encompassed by a strong academic background, Katherine has successfully completed a Bachelor of Psycholoical Science, Bachelor of Commerce and a Bachelor of Financial (Honours) at Griffith University and 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 from Victoria won the 2009 AFA Student of the Year. Dennis' commitment to lifelong learning has been recognised by the continual improvement of his advice skills and applying this knowledge to his business, clients and community.


Jo Bean

Jo Bean from Tasmania took out the top prize in 2008. Jo completed her Diploma in Financial Services (Financial Planning) with RG146 Training Australia in 2008, where she was recognised for developing exceptional advisory skills.




Simon Duigan

Simon Duigan’s journey to becoming a financial adviser is a great success story for anyone considering changing careers. For 20 years, Simon was a computer programmer, running a successful software development business. After he and his wife became more actively involved in planning for their own retirement, a passion for financial planning was ignited within him. Simon dedicated himself to studying and learning more about the industry, eventually completing his Graduate Diploma in Financial Planning. He quit his IT job, joined the financial services industry initially as a Para Planner, and is currently a Private Client Adviser for Main Street Financial Solutions.

Simon has now worked in financial services for a number of years and enjoys building long term, meaningful relationships with clients. He specialises in providing financial planning, risk insurance and investment advice for clients throughout Australia. He is passionate about providing accessible financial advice, guiding clients so they can live the life they want now and plan for the retirement they desire.

Simon believes “it is important for advisers to be as educated as possible and to continue that their education throughout their career to provide their clients with the advice that they need, the advice they deserve and the best experience possible”. Practicing what he preaches, Simon has continued to expand his knowledge, recently completing the Certified Financial Planning Program through Deakin University.

Outside of work, Simon’s is most passionate about his family. A devoted husband and father of 3 children, he enjoys watching them in their various sporting endeavours.




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.




Steve Dobson

For Steve, being a part of the financial services industry runs in the family. His family established Mal Dobson & Associates in 1987, and Steve started working for the family firm in a part-time capacity from a young age. Realising that he needed to build up his life experience to effectively provide relevant advice to clients, he took a break and joined the police force, at the same time continuing with his studies, eventually completing a Bachelor of Business in Financial Planning and Masters in Business Administration. After the birth of his first son, in 2008, he rejoined the family practice full time, and is currently a director and financial planner.

Steve is experienced in all aspects of financial planning, with strong experience providing advice to small to medium enterprise (SME) and start-up companies. He has also worked with numerous state government emergency service agencies and not-for-profit organisations, gaining experience in corporate governance and volunteer management.

A firm believer in the value of education, Steve has delivered a financial literacy program for Canningvale High School. He sees the financial services industry moving towards requiring advisers to have higher levels of qualifications in the future. He supports the need for ongoing education, stressing the importance of technical competence, as well as the need for advisers to “have the soft skills to make sure we (advisers) can explain to clients why they need to take this (our advice) up. It’s all good for it to be sound on paper, but it needs to be resonating with clients”.

Steve is passionate about giving back to the community, and doesn’t shy away from opportunities to be involved in different community groups. He is a volunteer firefighter and regional trainer on advanced firefighting, a Justice of the Peace and football coach.




Warren Strybosch

Warren Strybosch has led a pretty colourful life with a diverse range of experiences under his belt --- he served in the Army, did a stint in modelling, was a teacher in Secondary Schools, is a Lecturer, manages a start-up fundraising/marketing business, works with corporates in varied roles and runs a successful financial planning practice located in Melbourne and Geelong.

While working as a secondary school teacher, Warren was inspired to move to a career in financial services by his identical twin brother, who worked in the industry. Realizing that he could capitalise on his education in psychology and statistics to carve a successful career in the industry, Warren pursued further studies, completing his Diploma in Financial Planning, quit teaching and started his first financial planning business, Infocus. He has since sold that practice and subsequently established The Find Group of Companies, offering financial planning, accounting and mortgage broking services, of which he is currently the Managing Principal.

Very passionate about education and learning, Warren hasn’t completely cut ties to his past life as a teacher. He currently lectures students working towards their Diploma in Financial Services (RG146) and writes courses in financial planning, enabling him to keep abreast of changes and challenges facing the industry and pass on his knowledge and expertise to our next generation of financial planners.

Warren believes “education is important, especially in the financial services industry. It helps clients see that we have the knowledge base, that we are experts in our field. It’s really important that we continue to study, and not just CPD (Continuous Professional Development), but also doing other courses, bettering ourselves, so we can actually help our clients and give better advice”.



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