Keller feels the goal of the consumer advocate is to build the value of the CFP certification and to communicate that value to the public. "When the consumer understands the value of using a CFP, the advisors benefit," he says. "When Eleanor and I cooked up this idea for a consumer advocate, it just made sense for her to be that person. Our surveys show us certificants want to do a better job of communicating with the public.

"We were looking for an authoritative source to be available to the media," he adds, "and Eleanor can draw on her history of successful financial planning to be that source. The job is only a few months old, but she is making a contribution beyond our initial hopes."

Dimitroff and Blayney have been friends since they entered the profession in the 1980s, when there were few women in the field. The friendship grew stronger when they worked on practice standards together. Blayney also helped develop the international standards for the profession. "Eleanor brings a great competence in planning to the board, and she had years of hands-on experience at a very large, prestigious financial planning firm," Dimitroff says.

The board members are volunteers, and presidents serve for one year. Having a consumer advocate, however, gives the board a permanent person to speak at events and communicate with the public.

"She is articulate, hard-working and passionate," Dimitroff says. "I think the role of consumer advocate will grow as it becomes more established."

Blayney says she is grateful to have been in on the beginning of the profession, is proud to have helped develop the standards that now guide planners and loves the idea of creating a new role for an advocate. "When I started, the idea of a financial planner was new," she remembers. "Now I can go to my daughter's class career day, and tell her classmates that they can grow up to be financial planners and what a wonderful career it is. You couldn't do that when I started because most people did not even know what fiduciary meant. Myself, and a lot of others, had the opportunity to help shape this profession."

Blayney started far from financial planning as an English major studying at the University of Cambridge. But when she returned to the United States, she felt she needed a more practical profession. She earned her M.B.A. and landed a job doing financial analysis for government agencies.

"Working for the government was not my cup of tea. I was not seeing any tangible results," Blayney explains. "I needed to sit across the table and look someone in the eye and see that I was making a difference."

She heard about the emerging profession of financial planning and visited some advisors. "I met a lot of dedicated, interesting, passionate people and that's when I knew what I wanted to do."

She worked for a couple of financial firms before helping found Sullivan, Bruyette, Speros and Blayney Inc. in McLean, Va., and Chicago., where she specialized in large-scale investment strategies for high-net-worth individuals. That firm was bought about five years ago by Harris Bank.