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Kiersten Essenpreis for Money

In the financial world, Dimensional Fund Advisors has something of a mystique around it. Just ask Michael Simmons.

When the Denver-based financial planner was brought to Santa Monica for one of the firm’s famous two-day training sessions, “It’s much like being invited into Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory,” says Simmons, of Transitions Wealth Management. “Because you really do have to be invited.

“I suppose that means I was lucky enough to have a golden ticket.”

In that session the David Booth-founded firm rolled out money legends like Nobel Prize-winner Eugene Fama and his collaborator Ken French, and schooled advisors in their unique factor-based investing philosophy, which tilts toward elements like value and profitability. In fact only approved advisors were allowed to sell DFA products, which gave the firm its exclusive air.

Now, though, DFA is stepping gingerly into a new era. Kind of like Willy Wonka throwing open the factory doors, Dimensional has rolled out its first exchange-traded funds. That means instead of being available only to investors who were able to hire a DFA-approved financial adviser, anyone can buy them. The first two off the assembly line are US Core Equity (DFAU) and International Core Equity (DFAI), just launched in mid-November.