Innovator

Eric Clarke

Eric Clarke

CEO, Orion Advisor Services

“When you run a business, you can only focus on the things you can be best at. You have to say no to other things,” said Eric Clarke, founder and CEO of Orion Advisor Services, which provides accounting, trading and reporting technology to registered investment advisers.

Orion was born during Mr. Clarke’s tenure as chief operating officer of CLS Investments, an RIA founded by his late father, Patrick Clarke.

As the growing firm approached $1 billion in assets under management, its IT system was reaching capacity. The younger Mr. Clarke, unable to find an off-the-shelf solution, worked with his team to develop their own.

He soon came to a realization.

“If we’re going to be a technology company, we need to invest in that technology on an ongoing basis,” he said. “We’ll have to sell it to other advisory firms.”

Another smart decision was to focus on homegrown expertise, thereby embracing integration with third-party technology providers who can share data and develop applications accessed from the Orion platform.

Over 20 years, Orion has grown to serve about 1,800 firms with $700 billion in assets under administration.

Mr. Clarke credits his company’s success in part to its culture, which is built on the concepts of innovation, disruption and winning. Management intensively analyzes the business’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.

“You constantly have to disrupt your own business to future-proof it,” he said.

A native of Omaha, Mr. Clarke’s entrepreneurial skills go all the way back to ninth grade, when he and his brother became local tycoons selling swimming lessons — in the family pool. By the time they were in college, they were serving 500 children each summer at $60 per child.

He learned a lot about running a successful business, Mr. Clarke said, including advertising, collections, dealing with difficult customers and appeasing unhappy neighbors.

– Deborah Nason

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