Brett Austin Cooper, CPA – 2015 40 Under 40 Honoree
This year’s 40 Under 40 honorees are among the best and brightest talent in the accounting profession. They are all active in the professional community, as well as in their local communities, where many are small business owners and employers.
Sep. 16, 2015
Brett Austin Cooper, CPA- 27
Business Strategy Fellow
What is the name of one book that has been a great influence to you?
Muhammad Yunnus’ “Banker to the Poor”. Reading about Yunnus’ transition from an economics professor to one of the foundering fathers of modern day microfinance was really powerful for me. It helped to motivate the transition I am currently pursing. In May of 2015, I left my Manger title and window office in an international financial services firm in Seattle to pursue a career in the social sector.
My first stop was a consulting role with Accion International in India. Here, I focused my efforts on their financial literacy training programs which help low-income individuals improve their ability to manage their personal and household finances. Now, over the next year I will split time between Kampala, Uganda and Nairobi, Kenya, working a fellowship for a social enterprise technology startup.
In what ways have you contributed to your firm/company to make it better?
Two weeks ago, I began the next phase of my professional journey. I assumed the role of Business Strategy Fellow at TaroWorks, LLC. This fellowship was arranged by the Grameen Foundation’s Bankers without Boarders program. In this role I will help develop and refine the overall business strategy of TaroWorks by developing and maintaining critical business KPIs, developing detailed financial models, driving market sizing activities to help evaluate new potential sectors, and helping to identify and cultivate key strategic partners. I endeavor to use the skills and perspectives gained in my accounting career to accomplish these goals.
In what ways do you participate in the professional community to change/improve the accounting profession?
When practicing in Pennsylvania I was a member of the statewide business valuation committee and the Philadelphia chapter’s young professionals committee. I also organized and oversaw events for the young professionals committee. For these efforts I was recognized with the Pennsylvania Institute of Certified Public Accounts “Members to Watch: 2013-2014 Young Leaders Award”.
In what ways do you participate in your local community to help others?
Before leaving Seattle for India, I was the Treasurer and a member of the board of directors of the Seattle Audubon Society. Seattle Audubon is active in the areas of conservation and environmental education. Their mission statement is to “cultivate and lead a community that values and protects birds and the natural environment.”
I also provided advisory services to socially minded technology startups in Seattle. As I progress in my new role in East Africa, I will look for similar volunteer opportunities.
What changes do you foresee in the accounting profession of the near future (3-5 years)?
I foresee an increase in cloud based accounting services as well as software automation of currently manual tasks. Before departing for India, I was a manager in an international financial services firm where I specialized in valuation services. My team was (and still is) striving towards the creation of models and software that will bring automation (and in turn efficiency) to the valuation arena. As firms begin to leverage this type of technology, practitioners will be able to service more clients at lower price points.
How do you see yourself participating in shaping the future of the accounting profession?
There is a great need for accountants and financial professionals in the world of philanthropy, social enterprises, and poverty alleviation. I hope that the trajectory I am currently on can help to pave the way for other financial professionals to utilize their skills in these realms.
What is your career philosophy?
One of my personal mantras also applies to my professional life. And that is that “I’d rather be forgotten than remembered for giving in.” Admittedly, I borrowed the words from a band that I enjoy. To me, the idea of giving in is failing to reinvent myself, failing to challenge myself, or to say it more succinctly – settle. I want to constantly strive to be both a better person and professional every day. And if I fail to do that – I’d rather be forgotten.
Describe one person who has been an important mentor to you and how that person helped change your life.
I have been fortunate to have a number of colleagues, friends, and family that have helped to guide and support me in both my professional and person life. There are a few specifically who helped to support and encourage me as I transitioned out of my successful young career as a valuation practitioner to pursue my dreams of impacting the world of social enterprises. Mom, dad, Z. Dihn, E. Baldwin, T. Montgomery, and B. Windrope I cannot thank you all enough.