Mary DiChristofano, Private Wealth Advisor at Graystone Consulting – Chicago, has flourished by putting family first. She recently was recognized as a Morgan Stanley MAKER.
Mary DiChristofano is proud to be the first child and grandchild of parents and grandparents who immigrated from Italy. “They came to the United States with the proverbial suitcase to build a better life for themselves and their family,” says the Private Wealth Advisor at Graystone Consulting – Chicago.
Growing up, “family, faith and tradition were paramount in everything we did,” recalls Mary, who has fond childhood memories of time spent with her many cousins, aunts and uncles “celebrating life around food and Italian culture.” Sundays were for church and big dinners, when as many as 25 people would gather in their suburban Chicago home.
Mary’s maternal grandmother and father were among her role models. “It was a privilege to watch their perseverance, grit and courage pay off,” Mary reflects. Although she was born in the U.S., her grandmother moved to Italy with her parents when she was 6. She got married, had children, then returned to America alone in her mid-30s. She found an apartment and a job as a seamstress then called for her husband and three children who joined her.
Mary’s father, at age 25, also came to the U.S. alone. Shortly after arriving, he started his own masonry business. At a young age, Mary’s English skills proved an asset to her father’s business, and she stepped in to help. “I learned early that it doesn't have to be perfect,” she says. “If you give your best and ultimately deliver quality work, you will have successful outcomes.”
If you give your best and ultimately deliver quality work, you will have successful outcomes.
In high school, Mary also got a job at a local bank—as a financial counselor in the new accounts department. “I got to understand that helping clients with financial transactions is more than just opening a savings account,” she says.
With a love for connecting with people, she knew she wanted a career in finance. After graduating from Loyola University, she was chosen to join the management training program at LaSalle Bank, then landed a job in its financial planning group after her rotation through the company.
When her then-boss decided to start his own venture, she joined him as a founding partner of Frye-Louis Capital Management, the first family office in the Midwest. Their business prospered, and eventually they sold it to Credit Suisse where they continued to grow their client base for the next 15 years. Credit Suisse’s exit from the private banking business in 2016 “gave us the opportunity to find a new home for our team and our clients,” says Mary.
Morgan Stanley was a natural choice. “Thinking about our clients’ financial wellbeing beyond their investment portfolio is paramount,” she insists. “With Morgan Stanley’s support, I’ve flourished even more so in my role.”
The Family CFO
Mary completed Morgan Stanley’s one-of-a-kind Family Wealth Director designation program so she could better understand family dynamics, planning opportunities and give clients “the peace of mind they deserve.” She stresses the need to approach each client “with an open mind and a compassionate heart and make them feel comfortable.”
In addition to those soft skills, Mary is laser-focused on the details and calls herself “a technician at heart, disciplined and consistent with the skills we bring to the table.” In fact, the CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ (CFP®) enjoys problem-solving and thrives on “getting things done efficiently and effectively.” She loves serving as her clients’ “family CFO”—teaching and helping them achieve their goals.
“What makes my career very rewarding is the work I do for families,” she says. “Growing up, we always thought about our multiple generations of family members. Now, I think about my clients and the many generations of their families and the legacy they want to create.”
Yet, without the support of her own family, she knows she couldn’t have helped so many others. “My husband has always been a phenomenal partner in supporting my career and in raising a family together,” she says. They have a son and daughter, young adults with whom they have a lot of fun carrying on family traditions, many of which are focused on food.
I've come to realize that if one door closes for some reason, another will always open.
The Financial Future
Mary loves being around next-gen talent, so much so that she hosted a Summer Pathways internship program, which focused on building a pipeline of diverse future Financial Advisors. In her free time, she works with various charities to teach financial literacy.
After being named to Forbes’ list of America’s Top Women Wealth Advisors in 2021, Mary was named a Morgan Stanley MAKER, class of 2022, joining a distinguished group of women and men, all nominated by their peers. She’s grateful to have been “recognized with many other women for doing important work” and for being “passionate and relentless in making the world a better place.”
Her advice to other women is this: “Don't be afraid of the hard work, and don't worry about the future. Things will take care of themselves as long as you focus on the present, give your best in every way, invest in yourself, engage with great mentors and learn to be your own advocate.”
After 30 years in the business, Mary still never says no. “I take on work any opportunity I get and will always take on new challenges and continue to improve my skills,” she says. “I've come to realize that if one door closes for some reason, another will always open. Just that gives me the energy to continue.”