Natalie Wolfsen, newly appointed chief executive officer of Orion Advisor Solutions, is emerging as one of the industry’s brightest stars.
Wolfsen, the outgoing CEO of AssetMark, a turnkey asset management platform and technology provider to financial advisors, began her new job Oct. 16.
Wolfsen, who joins the board of directors and will keynote the firm’s Orion Ascent 2024 event March 12-15 in San Diego, is tasked with leading Orion into “a new era of innovation, [which] is going to be critical to advisors and investors,” Charles Goldman, Orion’s executive chairman of the board of directors, tells ThinkAdvisor in a recent phone interview.
TAMP Orion supports thousands of independent advisory firms and — combined with its Redtail Technology and Orion OCIO — services $3.8 trillion in assets under administration and $64.3 billion of wealth management assets.
Discussing the selection process to replace Eric Clarke, Orion’s founder and CEO who in May announced he would retire at the end of 2023, Goldman says that Wolfsen was chosen not only because of her “deep, long understanding of independent advisors” but also because she fit the bill as someone who would drive change and has “a client-first mentality.”
Goldman and Wolfsen have known each other for two decades, working together at Charles Schwab in addition to AssetMark.
Before moving to AssetMark in 2014, Wolfsen held investment platform development, strategy and marketing roles at First Eagle Investment Management, Pershing, Schwab and American Express.
In March 2021, Goldman left AssetMark, where he was president and CEO, and joined Orion’s board of directors. He was named executive chairman in May. Wolfsen succeeded Goldman as CEO at AssetMark, where she had been chief solutions officer and executive vice president.
Goldman, who started his career in 1987 as an analyst at Bankers Trust and was subsequently with Bain & Co., Genstar Capital and other private equity firms, left AssetMark after nearly eight years because “I was ready to go on to something else, and the board was ready for new leadership,” he says in the interview.
Here are highlights of our conversation:
THINKADVISOR: Orion conducted a national search for its new CEO. Natalie Wolfsen, ultimately selected, had been right under your nose! Wasn’t she?
CHARLES GOLDMAN: Yes [laughs]. That’s how it happened.
What are Wolfsen’s main qualities that make her right for the role?
First of all, Natalie has a deep, long understanding of independent advisors and independent broker-dealers. So she stood out from everyone we spoke to more than anybody in terms of her understanding the marketplace.
She has deep experience serving advisors, building innovative technology solutions for asset management and portfolio construction.
Her base of knowledge and experience in this space is outstanding.
You and Wolfsen worked together before. Was she your protege? Were you her mentor?
Natalie and I have worked together for a long, long time, and she succeeded me as CEO at AssetMark. I’ve known her for 20 years.
I would hope that she considers me a mentor. I’ve been around the block and mentored a lot of executives at AssetMark, Schwab, Fidelity — a network of people I’ve worked with that are now sitting in CEO jobs.
To what extent will you be giving advice to Wolfsen in her new role?
I’m [executive] chairman of the board, so my job is to work with the CEO to deliver better outcomes for advisors.
My expectation is that I’ll work with Natalie as she needs me to do so, and as the board of directors needs me to. And I’ll mentor her in any way I can.
Was Wolfsen’s name in the back of your mind when you started the search for a new CEO?
Yes, along with probably a dozen other people who were on my original list of people to reach out to.
What’s the “new era of innovation,” as you’ve put it, that she’s expected to bring to Orion?