FAI Insights Podcast: An interview with FAI's President and CEO, Lyn Dippel
Q: Please Introduce yourself.
Lyn: My name is Lyn Dippel, President and CEO of FAI Wealth Management
Q: Tell me about your position at FAI and what you specialize in?
Lyn: In addition to being head of the firm, I also meet with clients and work as a financial advisor for 70+ clients. My specialties include: working with widows and widowers, mid-life marriages, and blending families (two independently financially successful people that are joining together mid-life and all the issues around that). I also work with a number of women executives.
Q: What areas do your staff people specialize in?
Lyn: In addition to those areas I just mentioned, we have additional advisors on staff that specialize in working with small business owners, engineers, and the sandwich generation (a person who has teen to adult age children and who are also caring for or organizing care for an elderly parent).
Q: Tell me about your start at FAI to now, being CEO, and how your style might be different than Mike’s, and yet how clients can expect the same quality.
Lyn: I’ve been with FAI Wealth Management for about 11 years. Prior to that, I was a partner in a financial advisory firm in Northern Virginia. I came to FAI specifically because I liked their approach and I liked the founder, Mike Martin. I thought that he stood out among advisors in terms of his integrity and his passion for the business. In addition, his investing philosophy was very much like my own–a very value oriented philosophy. I began to work with Mike in 2004. About two years ago, I took over as President and CEO as Mike is sort of winding down his role in daily operations of the company.
My style and philosophy is very similar to Mike’s. We still have a very client-centric business. We focus a lot on client service and going above and beyond for the client. In addition, I would say one thing that has changed over the years, and part of this has to do with my interests in the planning arena in addition to investments, but also what clients need as the world is becoming more complex and there are more decisions to be made, we now do a lot more proactive financial planning, cash-flow management, and what we call scenario-based planning where we actually help clients make life decisions. We do this in a way that is a fully integrated approach, both with planning and investments.
One of the things that I’m working on in terms of how this company is changing and evolving is really trying to look at the needs of our current client base and our potential client base. Over the years, what has happened is that decisions need to made a lot faster. Information is coming a lot faster. We need to adapt as far as technology. Recently, we implemented a new software where people can get answers to questions and make decisions in real-time.
The other part of it is that there is so much information out there right now that one of our roles has become really helping people to distinguish what is just noise from the media, the financial press, etc., and what is actually significant. We also help people figure out and focus in on what they can actually control–their circle of influence. There are external events that we can’t necessarily predict or control but we can help clients plan and manage what is in their circle of influence so that they’re better prepared.
Mike used to have a saying: “We can’t predict the future but we can help manage perpetual uncertainty.” I always liked that and phrase. I think that is one of our key roles right now.
Q: What is it that sets FAI apart from the competition?
Lyn: There are two or three things that really set us apart.
Firstly, we have a very well-defined, four-step, collaborative process that we use with clients which incorporates both planning and investments. We start with the client’s goals. It’s not just about how much return or what kind of investments right away, it’s really more about the goals and what the money is going to be used for. We try to get to know our clients personally. We gather all of the information about the tools that our clients have available to them: all of the assets, income, etc., and we develop a strategy around that, and that’s a collaborative process with the client.
Next, we move on to the implementation phase where we integrate some of the tax planning and financial planning with the investment management. Then we monitor and we revisit every year while looking at the client’s goals. It’s kind of a circular process that is ongoing.
We also have a very sophisticated proprietary investment process. It’s somewhat unusual for a firm of our size to have the amount of credential staff and professionals that we have here. We have several CFAs, CFPs, CPAs and MBAs here on our staff. In particular, our investment committee is comprised of, at the head, two former directors of research for large mutual fund companies so, we certainly have a lot of brainpower.
Our committee has a three-pronged investment approach that combines asset allocation, security selection, and portfolio construction. In each of those categories we have an innovative approach.
We are really known for our personal client service. We are proactive and we spend a lot of time looking out for ways to benefit our clients. Everything from special tax strategies to looking out for changes in regulations, new laws, things that may affect them in the future, or opportunities that they may be able to take advantage of. We are very good at working with our clients and helping connect them to other people that can be of value to them, such as other professionals, etc.
Q: What you some of the things that you are doing within the community?
Lyn: In the community I am on several boards and committees. Currently, I serve on the board of the National Family Resiliency Center, a Columbia non-profit which works with families in transition and helps children better adjust to transitions within the family. I am also on the finance committee for the Community Action Council of Howard County, a non-profit that helps with the underprivileged and homeless which has a number of programs such as Headstart, and so on. It’s a very large organization. I am also very active with Leadership Howard County. I was in the class of 2014 and I am active on a number of committees associated with Leadership.
In general, I do try to attend a number of community events and am involved in area events as they come about, particularly with the development of downtown Columbia.
Q: What do you like to do in your spare time?
Lyn: I do have young children so between my work here at FAI and my children I don’t have a lot of spare time but when I am not at work, you can often find me at school or at sporting events. My daughter plays field hockey and my son plays soccer. He is also active in Boy Scouts. Both of my children attend Howard County Public Schools. I also enjoy boating–you can usually find me on the water somewhere if I do have free time. I also like running and yoga.
Q: Are you originally from Virginia?
Lyn: I spent most of my childhood in Montgomery County, MD but then I went to college at University of Richmond in Virginia. I spent all of my time, post-college, and law school in Virginia, right until 2004 when I moved here to work for Mike. I’m sort of a Washingtonian at heart even though I’m in Columbia now. One of the nice things about where I am now is that I’ve come to appreciate Baltimore and all it has to offer but I’m still able to get to D.C. and visit all that the D.C. world has to offer.
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