Profiles: Madelyn Mallory

Madelyn Mallory

Madelyn Mallory

MBA Finance 93

Financial Advisor at Morgan Stanley & Managing Member at Copperhead Properties LLC


Madelyn Mallory is a San Jose native. The fifth of six children, she grew up in a world dominated by her four brothers. As the first girl to be elected student body president at her Fresno high school in the early 1970s, she was a pacesetter. Accepting girls into what were still seen as male bastions in those days was a slow and often awkward process. She recalls the outrage of the boys in her class and their demands for a recount, not to mention how the local Rotary Club had always hosted the past student body presidents at their weekly luncheons, yet she wasn't invited to a single one.

By the fall of 1973 she was enrolled at the University of California, Berkeley and considering a career in city planning. She'd begun a six-month stint at the Fresno County Planning Department working in economic development where she learned that the city planners weren't the decision makers. It was the board of directors instead. Her internship had taken city planning as a career off the table.

She'd had the usual spate of teen and college jobs. It was a less-than-fulfilling career path. Quite by chance, she met a stock-broker while attending the wedding reception of a college sorority sister. She began working as a stock-broker for Dean Witter. Mallory eventually found a small division at her firm where financial advice was being dispensed. Dean Witter had a financial planning department staffed with estate planning attorneys, tax accountants and individuals with the relatively new professional designation: certified financial planner. Mallory referred a few of her larger clients to this department and was wowed by the quality and sophistication of the financial advice provided. This was how she wanted to do business.

Mallory wanted to learn the comprehensive technical knowledge of financial planning and evaluated various MBA programs offered at Cal, Stanford, SFU and San Jose State. She was then directed to GGU MS in either financial planning or taxation. At the time Golden Gate was one of only 20 universities in the country offering a master's degree in financial planning, and there were no undergraduate programs offered anywhere. Today, there are a lot more universities in California offering programs, but back in 1989, GGU was the only one in the state.

Like many GGU students, Madelyn was working full-time and was a young mother when she enrolled in the program. She resigned from Dean Witter. Golden Gate was also where she opened the next most significant chapter in her career. In the mid '90s, while still a GGU grad student, Madelyn happened to meet a fellow student, Suzanne Chan, a CPA at KPMG Peat Marwick LLP. In 1995, she joined the firm to establish its investment consulting practice for the North Pacific region. It was a successful 16 months. When Madelyn left, she was leading the country in having secured the most new clients and the most new revenue for the division. More important, though, she had figured out how to connect the career dots within financial planning and was ready to strike out on her own as an entrepreneur.

Many financial planners in the 1990s still focused on selling a myriad of financial products. Madelyn wanted to follow a different path: fee-only financial planning when she opened Catalyst in 1996. Today, Madelyn is recognized as one of the country's top wealth advisors. Catalyst has been named one of the best seven times in the last decade by Wealth Manager Magazine. A wealth manager to high-net-worth individuals, families, pension plans and endowments since 1983, Madelyn's firm offers fee-only financial planning and investment management to clients with $1 million or more in investment assets. A colleague suggested a better business model. That colleague was Craig Litman, a lawyer whose MBA is from GGU, and a founder of the Bay Area firm Litman Gregory Asset Management, an acknowledged expert in the field of financial planning for high-net-worth individuals. He recommended charging based on a percentage of assets. So she went from managing no money at all, to managing $150 million for 60 families. Catalyst remains a smaller boutique firm with four full-time employees.

Catalyst had been in business nearly a decade when a venture capitalist called, looking for a way to branch into investment management. "They wanted to bring it in-house, rather than referring clients to a business like mine, and they were offering a lot of cash. It was an attractive offer. The company was publicly traded and being able to trade my privately held Catalyst stock for a publicly traded stock was appealing. We agreed I would stay for six years and serve on a board for their wealth-management arm. So nothing changed with my clients. That relationship was to be short-lived. She initiated a buy-back at a discounted price. By then it was 2008 and the great housing debt crisis was looming.

Madelyn Mallory is much the kind of consummate professional and entrepreneurial business owner who graced GGU classrooms over the years both as a student and later as an instructor. So it was no surprise in 2003, when GGU was looking for a new director for the financial planning program that it teamed up with Madelyn. She was the program director for two years until conditions attached to the sale of Catalyst forced her to leave, but then was later approached me about joining the GGU board. She joined the board in 2006 and quickly became involved in addressing some of the serious financial issues the university faced at the time. During her second term on the board, she became chair of the Finance and Operations Committee chair and, in 2010, chair of the Investment Committee. She is also credited with spearheading important changes in the university's employee retirement policies and practices. Arguing that the board had a fiduciary responsibility to oversee the plan), the 403B subcommittee was formed. As a result, employees now have more choices and pay lower fees for their retirement services.

The last year has been an eventful time for Madelyn. She was approached by Morgan Stanley, and after a lengthy negotiation, ultimately decided to bring her financial planning practice back to the firm where she began her career in financial services (Morgan Stanley is the successor company to her old firm, Dean Witter). Madelyn discovered in her due diligence process that the delivery of financial planning and investment advice at her old firm had changed a lot and could now be offered in the same fee-based, independent and objective manner that she had built Catalyst on. The added benefit to her clients is the considerable depth and breadth of investment research at the larger firm as well as many fee discounts that she is able to pass through to clients. Moving to Morgan Stanley allowed Madelyn to monetize the value of Catalyst and begin to build a succession plan for what is now known as The Catalyst Group at Morgan Stanley.

Madelyn Mallory, at 45, was the youngest of her group of three to climb Mount Kilimanjaro, beginning their climb in tropical forests with chattering monkeys, and ending five days later surrounded by glaciers at the volcanic summit at 19,340 feet.

"Getting to the summit was the thrill of a lifetime. Everybody has a few things in their life like that. Mine were the days my daughters were born, the day I got accepted to UC Berkeley as an undergraduate, the day I completed my Golden Gate MBA and the day I got married. These were momentous occasions, and are the culmination of all my hopes for the future, overcoming doubt and fear, testing my resolve, working for something and getting it. Most of all, standing on top of the highest point on the African continent was about embracing all that life has to offer. It was spectacular!"