Close Close
Charles Goldman

Technology > Investment Platforms

How Orion Picked Natalie Wolfsen to Be CEO

Your article was successfully shared with the contacts you provided.

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?

The new era of innovation that we believe is going to be critical for advisors and their investors is: How do the technologies and capabilities talk to each other? 

There’s a lot of good technology in the industry, but most of it doesn’t work very well together. That’s what is in front of us: How do you make it work together? How do you make it integrated and easier? 

And how do you make AI a reality to enable the advisor’s life and the investor’s experience to be better?

It’s about [further] empowering advisors — to do [things] more efficiently, more effectively with better capabilities so that the investor gets a better outcome. 

Will you and Wolfsen work in the same office physically?

No. I live in Denver, and she lives in the San Francisco Bay area.

Natalie will be with our clients and in our offices as part of the job. Our primary offices are in Omaha, Sacramento and [Berwyn] Pennsylvania.

How long did the search for a new CEO go on?

It was a pretty fast process. We started around the end of May or early June.

What process did you use?

We put together a selection committee of the board and laid out a spec that was representative of the person we wanted. 

The spec had a couple of key elements. The first was that we were looking for somebody that understood something about independent advice and certainly understood the regulated financial services industry.

The second set of capabilities was around driving change, innovation and finding ways to really understand clients and their needs as they change and develop over time.

The final spec was cultural: We were looking for someone that had a client-first mentality, that thought about value creation through serving clients and motivating employees. 

In what ways did the search firm that you hired help most?

It helped us identify quite a few candidates, not only from our own industry but beyond that.

The recruiters had a long list of people over time. They looked at the spec we created and tried to match up people. 

You were president and CEO of AssetMark from 2014 to 2021. Why did you leave?

It was time for new leadership. I had been there for eight years, gone through two ownerships and had taken the firm public in 2019. 

I was ready to go on to something else, and the board was ready to have new leadership. 

What are you primarily focusing on at this juncture?

I’m at a point in my life and career where mentorship means a lot in terms of what I’m trying to do now. 

I enjoy working with CEOs to help them build better businesses and, hopefully, share some of the experiences, knowledge and beliefs I have about the [fintech] space broadly and specifically, how Orion can better serve advisors and end investors.

I’m really excited for Natalie and her opportunity.


© 2024 ALM Global, LLC, All Rights Reserved. Request academic re-use from All other uses, submit a request to [email protected]. For more information visit Asset & Logo Licensing.