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Mindy Diamond on Independence: Orion’s Eric Clarke on How Advisors Can Innovate, Disrupt and Win

The outgoing CEO of Orion Advisor Solutions shares his journey from the founding of the company, the firm’s growth over the years and perspectives on the future of wealth management, technology and AI.

Running a wealth management firm in the ‘90s was a very different animal than it is today.

And the ingenuity of people who sensed a “better way” served as the driver of an incredible evolution in the industry.

For Eric Clarke, finding that “better way” started with the realization that there was a lack of quality portfolio solutions available for RIAs like that of his father, the late Patrick Clarke. So Eric developed reporting software for the firm, CLS Investments—an exercise that would become the basis for the 1999 launch of Orion Advisor Services.

It was a seminal moment for the industry, leveling the technology playing field and paving the way for the proliferation of independent firms, which now had access to tools that would allow them to compete with the industry’s behemoths.

Today, Orion Advisor Tech is an industry-standard that Eric grew from its role as a portfolio accounting and reporting system to a “wealthtech powerhouse” with a variety of tools, including financial planning, CRM, risk management, compliance, and analytics.

Eric has been super busy building out his vision for Orion, overseeing several high-profile acquisitions like planning firm Advizr, risk technology vendor HiddenLevers, and the popular CRM Redtail.

It’s all part of what’s become a fully-developed ecosystem, which includes investment firm Brinker Capital, TAMP Orion Portfolio Solutions, plus the CRM, compliance, and risk technology, as well as a behavioral finance solution embedded throughout its offerings.

According to their website and as of this recording, Orion currently manages $3.8T in assets on its platform across 2,300 independent firms. Their wealth management firm manages over $67B in assets. The acquisition of Redtail added another 110,000 advisor clients.

Yet all that aside, one of the most staggering headlines this year was the announcement that Eric is stepping down from his role as the firm’s CEO. And just after recording this interview, it was announced that Natalie Wolfson, the outgoing CEO of TAMP AssetMark, will be the new leader of Orion starting in mid-October of 2023.

With all Eric has going on right now, he was generous to sit down with Louis Diamond and talk about his incredible journey, including:

  • The founding of Orion—and how the firm realized such astonishing growth over the last 24 years.
  • Recent acquisitions—and what each adds to the Orion ecosystem.
  • The decision to sell to private equity—and how such a transaction can help a firm think more strategically.
  • The challenges that advisors face—and how the platform helps solve them.
  • The democratization of technology—and how Orion’s platform leveled the playing field for independent firms.
  • The challenge of integration—and how a firm like Orion is working to improve client experience and create seamless workflows.
  • The future of wealth management—and how AI is reshaping the processes while creating scale and greater opportunity for advisors.
  • Plus, Eric discusses his decision to step down from the firm he gave rise to—and what he foresees as the direction of Orion in the future.

Eric epitomizes how innovation drives disruption, which results in an evolution. Firms like Orion and trailblazers like Eric are the founders of a new generation of wealth management firms—one that is created upon the freedom of designing something better.

It’s a landmark episode with a leader who helped redefine the wealth management landscape as it is today, with valuable lessons for advisors at all levels.

Download a transcript of this episode…

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