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Ron Carson chooses Orion-Salesforce software for his $5-billion RIA as he lines up an additional $3 billion

Besides Carson Wealth Management Group using it, his roll-up/TAMP, Carson Institutional Alliance, will also become an Orion/Salesforce shop

Friday, December 13, 2013 – 3:35 AM by Brooke Southall
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Ron Carson: It's beautiful.

Brooke’s Note: Ron Carson’s firm has always been known intraindustry as the biggest, with $5 billion, of the LPL RIAs, though I believe it has’s been eclipsed for pure asset count by some LPL OSJs. But as he has moved to the RIA model, he put a potential strain on his LPL relationship by opening to new RIA custodians, notably TD Ameritrade, and now by using a third-party technology vendor. Still, to LPL’s credit, it seems to be growing and opening in lockstep with Ron — in fact, Derek Bruton reveals in this article, more than most people realized.

At 4:30 a.m. Eric Clarke frequently blunders, half-awake, into his local exercise gym in Omaha, Neb., in hopes of getting his heart going and his mind clear before a long day of work.

At that hour, the president of Orion Advisor Services LLC can pat himself on the back that he is the one noble or crazy enough to have left a warm bed for barbells, neon lighting and the faint odor of sweat.

But darned if there isn’t one man there already on the machines in full workout mode when he arrives. Clarke doesn’t even have the solace of knowing he is the earliest bird in Omaha or his niche industry of serving RIAs. The other man is Ron Carson, who owns Carson Wealth Management, an RIA to ultrahigh- and high-net-worth clients, and Carson Institutional Alliance — not to mention PEAK Advisor Alliance, his coaching company. See: How Omaha is emerging as the RIA business’ center of gravity.

Unlike Clarke, Carson is fully stoked, having been up since 3 a.m. and having read all the pertinent daily media.

Now Clarke and Carson have formed a very notable technology deal — in effect since this summer — whereby both Carson Wealth Management and Carson Institutional will use Orion’s software to provide billing, performance reporting, rebalancing and other back office services. The Orion software replaces the in-house technology of LPL Financial, and Salesforce replaces Goldmine CRM technology.

“It’s beautiful,” Carson says. “We really needed all of these systems to talk to each other. We couldn’t have developed it without TD Ameritrade.”

The deal is a big win for Orion — of a firm that not only advises $5 billion of assets but that is also bent on growing at the most rapid rate in its history. Carson Institutional Alliance is recruiting smaller advisors to its platform either as a TAMP or as a tuck-in and was featured in this article a little over a year ago: Ron Carson launches roll-up/TAMP-like venture with Envestnet, TD Ameritrade and Advizent as puzzle pieces. Orion has a history of serving turnkey asset management programs — the term for outsourced investment management. See: RIA TAMP for insurance agents hits a quick $700 million AUM then opts for Orion software.

As of last Friday Carson Institutional Alliance had brought on its first $608 million, but it has asn additional $1.35 billion of assets commited. “Our goal for next year is $2 billion, and most of that has been identified,” Carson adds. The prototypical client is an RIA with $100 million to $250 million of AUM “that’s getting squeezed.”

In an earlier interview Carson referred to his scheme as “an alternative to United Capital Financial Advisers LLC and HighTower Advisors.” The main difference, says Carson, is that advisors don’t have to sell to him (though he certainly hopes some of them do) in order to access all the tools available, which are heavily focused on client-facing transparency.

The new venture, two years in the making, is being funded internally through $20 million in lines of credit and cash from Carson Wealth Management. It will charge advisors between 45 and 65 basis points in management fees. Internally, expenses for CIA range from 2 to 3 basis points for the all equity models, to 44 basis points for models that include ETFs or mutual funds.

Carson says that what RIAs are finding they love about the new arrangement is that they can go after virtually any client because they have the backing of Carson’s 85 employees in Omaha.

The choice of Orion reflects this threefold approach that Carson is using to pursue growth.

“Orion was chosen because of its ability to deliver a more efficient and scalable portfolio accounting technology for tracking new accounts and assets coming under management,” it says in a release. See: What Securities America and NorthStar Financial are up to with the creation of Arbor Point.

The deal also reflects a breakthrough of sorts for LPL in having one of its advisors going outside to find a third-party vendor, according to Derek Bruton, a senior executive at the company whom this reporter interviewed at MarketCounsel Summit in Las Vegas.

Bruton praised Clarke and Orion and said that he was comfortable with them from his time at TD Ameritrade Institutional, many of whose advisor clients use the Omaha vendor. During the past year the floodgates have opened a bit and dozens of LPL RIA-hybrids have begun using either Orion or Advent-Black Diamond, he says.

Clarke says that although it’s a relationship that has built very quietly, his firm now serves about two dozen of the largest hybrids at LPL.

Carson says there’s a reason that Clarke keeps quietly winning, at least with him.

“I trust Eric. That’s a man of his word.and if we need to get together he’s literally three minutes from my office.”

Or perhaps on a stairmaster or bench press three feet away.

Related Moves

Ron Carson ends national search for chief marketing officer by doing a local M&A deal using his favorite HR broker -- Eric Clarke

When Eric Clarke decided he'd play matchmaker, the hyperactive Carson Group CEO snapped up Mineral Interactive and made a creative deal

October 5, 2018 – 6:05 PM

Noreen Beaman steps down as president of Orion Advisor Solutions after Brinker migrates to Orion software and enterprise deals 'prove out'

The former Brinker CEO oversaw an 18-month transition of her then $26-billion TAMP and will remain as vice chair of the company after 'mutual' decision on role changes.

February 10, 2022 – 2:22 AM

Brad Shepard unexpectedly resigns from Orion Advisor Services after 10 months, and his chief strategy officer position will remain vacant, the company says

The Nashville, Tenn. executive came aboard to create a 'go-to-marketing strategy' for Brinker, HiddenLevers and legacy units but gave his notice this week.

January 7, 2022 – 11:40 PM

Mentioned in this article:

Carson Group
Consulting Firm
Top Executive: Ron Carson

Peter Giza

Peter Giza

December 13, 2013 — 7:10 PM


I had the opportunity to attend this session and I found it a highly valuable tool as an industry technology provider.

The value perspectives given were given from the view point of the advisor. And I really appreciated that for the most part there was a minimal degree of stumping for one’s platform.

Having served in many technology venues throughout the years I have to say that the finserv industry stands alone in my experience.
To be sure there is fierce competition, but there is a high degree of trust – earned trust that compels comments like Ron Carson’s regarding Eric Clarke – “I trust him”.

Trust is everything. Whether it’s between an advisors and providers, service provider to provider, custodian to custodian. Trust is infectious and the clients we serve sense that.


Peter Giza | VP Bus Dev | www.WealthSite.com

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