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Eric Clarke

Practice Management > Building Your Business > Leadership

Who Will Be Orion’s Next CEO?

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What You Need to Know

  • Brian McLaughlin and Ryan Beach are both capable leaders, fintech experts say.
  • But an outsider isn't out of the question.
  • Eric Clarke will leave a legacy of supporting independent advisors, Doug Fritz of F2 Strategy says.

Orion Advisor Solutions CEO Eric Clarke’s plan to retire by year-end, announced Monday, has left fintech consultants and other industry experts pondering who his replacement will be, with Ryan Beach, president of Orion Wealth Management, and Brian McLaughlin, president of Orion Advisor Technology, widely cited as two of the likely top internal candidates.

However, one fintech strategist predicted Orion would choose somebody else altogether, from outside the company.

“My money is on someone from the TD organization,” Doug Fritz, founder and CEO of F2 Strategy, told ThinkAdvisor by email, referring to TD Ameritrade, which was acquired by Schwab in 2020 and is still being integrated into its acquirer’s operations.

A TDA executive “would fulfill my prediction that Orion becomes an RIA custodian,” said Fritz.

As far as McLaughlin is concerned, “I think the move to have Brian oversee the tech last year might mean that he’s going to continue to focus on it for a while,” Fritz predicted. And that, he said, “would leave the door open for an outside personality with a reputation and experience to lead with two strong execs supporting her/him.”

McLaughlin joined Orion last year, when Orion acquired Redtail Technology, the web-based client relationship management software firm led by McLaughlin.

“I think Brian McLaughlin can run all the tech,” Joel Bruckenstein, president of Technology Tools for Today (T3), told ThinkAdvisor. “I think people like Ryan Beach can run all the M&A. They’ve been in this business a long time and they’re two of the best at what they do,” and the company has a “hierarchy of really good people and they have a great board.”

The CEO post is a “role that needs to be filled but it doesn’t need to be filled tomorrow,” he said.

The recent addition of Charles Goldman, “who’s obviously a very experienced and very capable guy,” to the Orion board as executive chair only helps Orion, according to Bruckenstein.

“I think they’re in good hands … [and I would] not be worried if I was an advisor at all,” he added.

Goldman, the former head of AssetMark, is leading the firm’s search for a new CEO, Orion said Monday. He joined Orion’s board in September and also serves on the strategic advisory board of the private equity firm Genstar Capital.

“I think Orion will be fine from an operating perspective,” Fritz told ThinkAdvisor.

But he added: “What will be missed is [Clarke's] relationship [with] and advocacy for the independent advisor; Orion has continued to drive functionality and innovation that endears users and clients to their brand. We’d hope the next CEO will have the same perspective, but fear that an aggressive capital partner may push for a different direction.”

Clarke’s Legacy

Both Bruckenstein and Fritz said Clarke will leave behind a strong legacy for Orion and the sector.

“He will go down in the fintech hall of fame (we’re still working on the zoning permits on that) as a visionary that delivered on the promise of streamlined, modern tech for the smaller player,” said Fritz. (Clarke was one of ThinkAdvisor’s 2022 LUMINARIES award winners in the executive leadership category.)

Clarke’s legacy will include “many things,” said Bruckenstein. “Number one, he will be eternally remembered as one of the nicest, kindest people in the business. Number two: I literally remember when they took this thing from an internal software product to market and what he’s grown both organically and inorganically over the last 20 years is just amazing.”

Orion’s “corporate culture” is also “one of the best in the business,” according to Bruckenstein, adding: “He will always be re remembered, I think, as not only a trailblazer but also the ultimate gentleman.”

Clarke, who founded Orion in late 1999, will continue to serve on its board of directors and intends to “work with the board on a smooth leadership transition,” the turnkey asset management provider said late Monday.

(Pictured: Eric Clarke, Orion Advisor Solutions CEO)


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