Eric Clarke, the founder and chief executive of Orion Advisor Solutions, announced Tuesday that he intends to retire from his technology company and TAMP, through which a combined $3.6 trillion in assets flow in some fashion. Replacing an “icon” like Clarke won’t be easy, according to Charles Goldman, the accomplished mountaineer, finance executive, and recently named chair of Orion’s board of directors. Still Goldman said the board already has a short list of candidates, and he hopes to hire someone quickly.
Discussions about Goldman becoming the chair of the board and Clarke’s retirement had been ongoing for months before those announcements this month, Goldman said. “I’ve got a long operating background in this space, and that kind of helped him make his decision,” Goldman said about Clarke.
Goldman was previously the CEO and president of AssetMark and has held leadership positions at Fidelity Investments and Charles Schwab. He’s also a senior advisor to Bain & Company and Genstar Capital (a majority owner of Orion with TA Associates) and several other private equity firms.
Now that Clarke has announced his intended retirement before 2024, the mission to find a new CEO has begun.
“I’m not a fan of running businesses slowly,” Goldman said. “Speed, and making decisions and moving forward, always ends up in a better place than waiting around. The hope here is that we bring somebody on as quickly as possible.”
And the board thinks that leading Orion is an attractive position and will lure good candidates. “It’s a plum company,” Goldman said. “It’s a great job, at a great point in the industry dynamics. I can’t think of a better one. Maybe there is, but I can’t think of it. So we wanted to get it announced so that we get into the market quickly.”
Orion will consider both internal and external candidates. There aren’t hundreds, but there are certainly dozens of people who could be a good fit, Goldman said.
He’s looking for a few characteristics in the candidates. They need experience running a technology company, an understanding of financial services, and they need to be a good leader — one capable of building on what Clarke created and continuing to move the company forward financially and culturally, Goldman said.
“We’re sponsor-owned. We need and are going to look for somebody that has a track record of creating value,” Goldman said. “I always start with first creating client value. I don’t believe you create shareholder value unless you create client value. You’ve got to start with a client, and then you create employee value, and then shareholder value.”
The board already has a list of more than 30 potential candidates that members know from their own networks.
“Are they available? Do they want to do it? Are they the right fit? We haven’t gotten to that place yet. But I think there are dozens. I don’t think there’s a hundred,” Goldman said.
The new CEO of Omaha-based Orion might not need to be located in Nebraska.
“I don’t even know what company location means anymore,” said Goldman, who lives in Denver. He often flew to AssetMark’s headquarters near San Francisco when he led the company, but not every week. Nowadays, many more meetings are happening virtually. “Orion has a pretty open approach to managing people, so there’s a lot of flexibility there.”
In some circumstances, a company and its board might not care much for the input of an outgoing executive in the search for a new CEO, but that’s not the case at Orion. Clarke plans to remain a member of the board and a significant shareholder, and he’ll be a part of the process to replace himself, Goldman said. Clarke, who Goldman said he has known and considered a friend for a long time, is ready for the next phase of his life and is “super connected” in the industry.
“I always use the word icon carefully, but he is that,” Goldman said about Clarke. “He’s been a founder, a leader, an idea generator, and built a great company. He’s gonna continue to help us do that. And we’re now ready to step into the next era for Orion.”