Marilyn Capelli Dimitroff: Influencing the Profession—Top Women Extended Profile

Shaping CFP practice standards, CFP Board code of standards and the fiduciary is her legacy

Marilyn Capelli Dimitroff has been a groundbreaker and a role model, but perhaps her greatest influence is in the financial planning profession itself, where she presided over some of the major standards that shape the way planners do business.

Planning is her second profession; she began as a high school and college math teacher. But after she had raised her family, she was looking for something different. An interest in the market guided her toward the profession of stockbroker, where she was the sixth woman in a firm of perhaps 230 brokers.

"The women at the firm were so talented and accomplished." she says. "I went to presentations they gave, and worked with them to find out best practices. And they were very client-centered, which fit with my philosophy."

She adds, "I ended up being rookie of the year for my branch, and I think a lot of my success was because I was a woman. I would call people, and they were surprised that I was a broker and it created a conversation—which may have given me an advantage."

What really gave her an advantage, however, was the fact that her firm chose one person from each branch to do the CFP program. "That," she says, "was my 'aha' moment. When I heard that I could embrace this whole idea of not just trying to sell someone the product du jour but actually find out about their situation, what they needed, and how they operated, and then come up with solutions—that was an approach that seemed so apparent to me, so logical."

"I love financial planning, and planning holistically," she adds

Back to that most influential work: it’s also the most important to her. There are three specific actions she mentions. "First," she says, "was being on the Practice Standards Board ... where we actually wrote the practice standards for CFP. I served on the board of directors, and to me this is the thing that was probably most satisfying."

She chaired the ethics task force that revised the CFP Board code of standards and we introduced the fiduciary standard, "actually saying it for the first time," she recalls. "In 2008 it was very controversial, and it began a conversation that continues today. It was a major decision to include that requirement, and in particular the word itself."

Last but not least, she cites chairing the CFP Board in 2009, "which, my luck, was a year of crisis. On a personal level, with my business in Michigan, and chairing the board, it was an exciting year," she remembers, "but the crisis created opportunity, and we worked with and formed the financial planning coalition of FPA and NAPFA and the CFP Board.”

“That coalition," she adds, "worked very diligently with members of Congress, senators and representatives, to urge them to require that any person providing personal financial advice to individuals would be required to uphold a fiduciary standard." She says proudly that that resulted in the Securities and Exchange Commission study, which, she adds, is a work in progress.

 

See the lead news article on the 2011 50 Top Women in Wealth.

See the article on the process for choosing the 2011 50 Top Women in Wealth.

See the 2010 50 Top Women in Wealth. 

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