A Physician’s Journey

How the great recession, retirement concerns, and the new normal are driving change in the delivery of wealth management and client relationships

Dr. Alex Madlener, a Yale-trained physician who has spent half of his 38-year career as a wealth advisor, is the founder and managing principal of OpenCircle Wealth Partners, an independent Registered Investment Advisory firm providing comprehensive wealth management. In the midst of the unfolding turmoil of the Great Recession, he decided to research the state of the wealth management industry and the major concerns of the clients whom his firm now serves.

“Based on the many conversations I had with fellow physicians, accountants, attorneys, retirees, and owners of businesses it was apparent that their concerns were not being address by their advisors. Most were reeling from the markets and did not have a solid plan to reach their goals. I saw that as a big problem that needed to be fixed. The bottom line was that real tangible value was not being adequately delivered to clients.”

To solve this problem of clients being underserved by their advisors, Dr. Madlener spent a year researching and traveling to interview experts he thought to be the most competent, evidence-based investment groups and wealth managers in the country. After a year of reading and 60 thousand miles of travel throughout the United States, he had found the answers he was seeking.

“It was a fascinating and eye-opening journey that allowed me to find what I consider to be the best of the best, a committed and passionate group of true wealth advisors who were aligned only with their client’s best interests and who consistently delivered solutions to their client’s major financial concerns based on an ongoing, trusted advisory relationship. I learned the importance of a fiduciary business model, using an approach based on the peer-reviewed academic evidence, access to a national network of subject matter experts, a client relationship focus, and a well defined process that is built on deeply understanding your clients – their goals, concerns, and relationships. It was a year well spent because it gave me all the ingredients I needed to create my firm in order to deliver real value to my clients and differentiate myself from the vast majority of financial advisors.”

Dr. Madlener’s research led him to define four factors that create the most value for his clients –  1) the correct business model, 2) understanding the major concerns of clients and having the resources to provide sound solutions, 3) customized investment strategies based on peer-reviewed academic studies from America’s top universities, and 4) a focus on service through ongoing relationships with clients.

“Our business model avoids conflicts of interest with clients and has a legal requirement to act only in the best interests of clients. For my clients to understand the value they are getting, everything must be transparent. I am paid a fee and I am not compensated by selling investment products or by bonuses from a parent company that takes people’s money and cares most about profits and shareholders. I am sitting squarely on my client’s side of the table.

Dr. Madlener goes on to say, “Most people don’t realize that their brokers have a different, lesser legal standard to provide only what is ‘suitable’ and not necessarily what is in their best interests. It is always an eye opener when they see for the first time what is actually going on and what they are really paying. We can often reduce their costs by half and provide much more value in terms of our services like minimizing taxes, retirement planning, and taking care of their heirs.”

Dr. Madlener says there are five key areas of concern shared by successful people that are most often not fully addressed or coordinated. They involve making smart decisions with money to fund their lifestyle, reduce taxes, protect assets, take care of heirs, and make charitable gifts.

“My clients care about making smart decisions with their money so they can preserve it. It goes beyond not losing money. It’s about having enough money to fund your lifestyle—to be able to do what they want to do, whether that’s to retire securely, pay for their children’s or grandchildren’s educations or to save smartly or travel. Planning for these goals helps build an effective investment plan, providing optimal expected returns and managing risk at a comfortable level.”

Regarding tax planning Dr. Madlener, who has a master’s degree in taxation and is a Certified Financial Planner says, “My clients are especially concerned about reducing taxes. We focus on minimizing income taxes, capital gains taxes, the new net investment tax (or Medicare surtax) and estate taxes.”

Dr. Madlener also describes something he calls Wealth Protection. “In today’s litigious society many people are concerned about having their assets unjustly taken and want to protect their wealth. This includes protecting against catastrophic loss, potential creditors, potential ex-spouses, and identity thieves.”

Estate Planning is another area of concern. “Often clients are concerned about taking care of their heirs – finding and putting in place a plan to pass assets to a spouse and succeeding generations in tax-efficient ways that meet the client’s wishes. Often I find old estate documents that the clients don’t really understand and don’t do what they think they do.”

He says some clients are concerned about supporting the causes they care most about. “If this is a concern we address the client’s charitable goals in the most impactful way possible, which can create tax benefits and support goals in other areas of their planning.”

Dr. Madlener believes that accomplishing the work well depends on having a trusted relationship with a true wealth manager, not just an investment advisor. “You need to stay focused on your clients because life is full of changes both with families and the economic environment. You also need to coordinate strategies with a client’s accountants and attorneys who most often are focused on their one area of expertise and not the whole picture.”

At the end of the day he says it is very rewarding work. “I find this work extremely gratifying because I can have a major positive impact on people’s lives. It’s like being a physician except I can spend all the time I need with my clients to help them implement smart strategies to get them where they want to go.”

OpenCircle Wealth Partners is an independent comprehensive wealth management firm based in North Haven, Connecticut that offers a wide range of financial planning and investment management services. Learn more about OpenCircle Wealth Partners by visiting their website at or by calling them at 203-985-0448203-985-0448.

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