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Creating a Frictionless Investor Experience with Noreen Beaman

In this episode, Jack talks with Noreen Beaman, President of Orion Advisor Solutions.

It’s been a year since the Brinker and Orion merger and Noreen is already harvesting the fruits of her efforts. The open-architecture experience she’s bringing to the table is creating an exciting ecosystem for engaging with advisors. She’s thrilled to be at the forefront of advisor empowerment and wants to advocate more for the human component of portfolio management.

Noreen talks with Jack about creating personalized engagement for investors, mastering the art of listening as financial leaders, and using a well-connected tech ecosystem for advisor empowerment.

What Noreen has to say

“We need to create a frictionless experience for our end investors. The companies we run look like the clients that we have. We have to stay focused on the consumer and investor, and help those financial advisors drive that experience.”

– Noreen Beaman, President, Orion Advisor Solutions

Read the full transcript

Jack Sharry: Hello, everyone. Welcome back to WealthTech on Deck our podcast listenership keeps growing. We have over 2000 listeners over the course of our 30 episodes. As you know, we talk with industry leaders each week about the confluence of digital and human advice and how to help improve financial outcomes for all investors, advisors and firms. Today, a longtime friend in the business is joining me. Noreen Beaman has worn a lot of hats over the years and is now the President of Orion Advisor Solutions. Noreen, thanks for joining us today. So glad to be having this conversation. Welcome.

Noreen Beaman: Oh, it’s so nice to be with you is I think back how long we’ve known each other and just all the wonderful things and all the changes in the industry. But it’s really nice to spend some time with you today.

Jack Sharry: You mmh it’s here, we’ll get to that. Oh my gosh. So Noreen and I have known each other She’s much younger than I am. But we’ve known each other for quite a while so it’ll be fun to catch up on stuff we talked about from time to time, when we say hello, suddenly, let’s start talking about how things are going. As Brinker and Orion had been merged together. I know you’ve been moving at a breakneck speed. So please fill us in what’s going on.

Noreen Beaman: So it’s hard to believe on September 24. This is one year and we did all of it primarily virtually. And the fun part now is we’ve been together doing whiteboarding sessions integrating our organizations. And the Brinker capital program is now integrated on Orion Tech, which opens up a lot of gates and delivering our products and services into the Orion ecosystem. But more importantly, allowing us to take advantage of the technology deliverables that Orion brings to the table. As you know, Eric Clarke, his real driver and creating Orion was to ensure the right technology for this type of business. So it was like a perfect home and clients are going to see a new advisor portal, a new client portal, they’re going to really be able to use the talent and tools of the hidden levers acquisition we just did. So we’ve been running at breakneck speed. The good news is we have a lot of commonality from a cultural perspective that makes it easier, but it is been a mad dash I would say.

Jack Sharry: Yeah, so fill us in a little bit for those that may not be familiar, I think I sometimes need a little bit of a primer to fully understand. So what was Orion’s business the former before Brinker and what Brinker obviously was the predecessor firm to advise Orion Advisor solutions. So maybe just talk about what y’all did differently and now how it’s come together and specifically your role in what the final outcome is.

Noreen Beaman: So when we think about Orion had actually a broader ecosystem, they had the Orion technology which they serve RIAs and independent advisors, which was the old FTJ business and with Orion portfolio solutions, where they had taken CLS investments was more similar to Brinker from a discretionary Asset Management and they were bringing that to market Brinker Capital, you would really consider more of a wealth manager delivering financial products to independent advisors and independent broker dealers and RIAs. But not as much of a FinTech player, we use financial technology and technology deliver services. But we didn’t manufacture any of the technology prior. Now, as we put those together, I am the president of Orion. So I’ve come to FinTech land. As a user of technology, I it’s actually not as much of a of a leap as people try to act like it could have been, I would get a kick out of like, we’re not making donuts, where they’re buying financial products, I get it. So that’s been kind of fun and learning new things around the technology side and understanding it’s all around the experience. So as we think about the two organizations together, is really delivering the best experience for that advisor to deliver to that end investor. And how do we solve problems? How do we take friction out of the experience? You know, I always say there’s three ways clients, fire advisors, the onboarding process is not great. When they need money, they can’t get it out the day they want it, and the tax reporting. So you got to take care of those things. And then add all that wonderful experiences around when they want to visit their money, whether it’s on their phone or on their computer, and really helping that financial advisor keeping those investors invested, even in difficult markets.

Jack Sharry: So talk a little bit if you would about there’s a few other acquisitions around Brinker being brought into the Orion family, there was advisor of the financial planning tool. More recently, there was Hidden Levers, I’m probably missing a bunch of others. But the idea is a pretty comprehensive ecosystem that’s been created, really for the benefit of advisors to bring to their clients. So maybe describe the pieces and how they come together. And then I’ll have a follow up question because we had Daniel Crosby on our show not too long ago and I want to talk about that but hold off on that because I think it’s fascinating all by itself, but how does this stuff come together and how to advisors benefit and how does help, we investors benefit.

Noreen Beaman: So at our core mission is empowering the advisor client journey and we do that for the four pillars in which our prospect plan, invest achieve. And each of those pillars bring with it different technology pieces that either you can use our fully connected experience. So when we purchased advisor that was pre Brinker, it’s now Orion planning and it’s our client portal advisor really fit into that, you know, planning piece, but also some of the prospecting the ability to deliver types of questionnaires or engagement tools through that prospecting, helping the advisor gather new clients, and then the investment bucket, which again is the Brinker capital bucket, as well as CLS prior investment arm which is now Brinker capital investments, as well as which is exciting to me from Brinker, more of an open architecture experience on the investment side, again, meaning advisors where they wanted me to get someone to fully engaged in a connected ecosystem. And some were looking for just pieces, I was called a Jenga. So how do we take the pieces out without having the house fall down, which ties into building up the economics on our side of the business, as well as empowering the adviser in those choices, and finally achieve which is our reporting and those kinds of things which will tie in to Dr. Daniel Crosby. The addition we brought on with since breakers in here is hidden levers. And what’s exciting about what the hidden levers team has done is around risk. And when you think about the importance of how you put portfolios together is understanding risk. educating the client about risk and engagement tools that hidden leverage springs to our ecosystem are really exciting, especially in a digital engagement, you know, how do you make the markets go down? 10%? How does that affect my portfolio, so some stress testing, as well as using those risk analytics to build portfolios. And then finally, we have another little open technique, which was helping us with reporting and doing some things with alternative investments from a reporting point of view. And we’ll be continuing to look for other pieces as we continue to build out our connected ecosystem.

Noreen Beaman: Terrific. I’ll ask more about that in a moment. I want to go to our friend, Dr. Daniel Crosby, we had him on not too long ago. And as I understand it, and correct me if I don’t have this just right, and lovers will be the proposal system. And within the proposal system and the ongoing experience, I think the part you’ll have to correct me if I’m wrong will be to make sure the advisor doesn’t do dumb stuff, frankly, help the advisor and the client not do dumb stuff, I should I should point out the idea being that want to make sure that as moves are being made, are they at the wrong time. So maybe you I’m sure you can do a much better job than I just did try to explain it. But it’s pretty exciting. Incorporating the behavioral aspect into a proposal system and into an ongoing guidance system, we’ll call it.

Noreen Beaman: So when we think of ourselves as investors like what makes you uncomfortable. Like me, we’re a 60 40 investor, but how I see the world and like the weather is bad, that makes me uncomfortable. So advisors should reach out to me on the news on Monday meeting made you uncomfortable, Jack. So the advisor should reach out to you on Monday, but not to me because I didn’t really pay attention to what happened on Monday. That’s where risk capacity and risk composure matter, and taking the hidden levers, technology, and taking that human element of Dan, what Dr. Crosby has built over the years of studying behavioral finance will allow us to keep the investor invested, the hardest challenge advisors have is addressing the human component, right? Like how are we have a great portfolio, it’s doing what it’s supposed to be doing. But you don’t just feel good about it because of what’s going on around you. So this understanding of what’s happening there gives that in the user the tools to help the client stay invested. I kind of think of it as a mood ring, which I know isn’t really a behavior like a real technology thing. But I’m like I always say like if you’re a purple, I’m like really dating myself and mood ring. But some days based on how you’re feeling you might be more of a violet, or maybe you’re a deep purple because of what’s going on. And I just think that your risk tolerance generally is the same, but your risk capacity and risk composure are different. And each of us bring that cookie cutter, that human experience and how do we give the advisor the tools to engage on that. So that’s what I’m excited with? Again, we could never have affected all Daniels work, but for a technology company like Orion.

Jack Sharry: Yep, yep, that’s exciting. So I have a little story 10 or 15 years ago, Noreen you had invited me along with a number of your colleagues and colleague and friend, John Coyne had invited me to speak at your conference and John slipped in a title of my talk, which was UMH, it’s here of course, you image is still being developed but sounds like what you’re putting together and we joke with John about that every time we see him but it’s something that’s hard and but you have a lot of the components you have almost all of them just begun editorial comment, you’re missing the tax piece, but that’s for another day. as fully as I know you have some of it but you would agree there’s more to go that said you’re putting it all together is that is that the objective is to have a unified managed household experience. Is that what you’re after?

Noreen Beaman: Without a doubt? Because when you really think about what our investors expecting, they really are expecting you to manage the money or the household. They’re not really you know why they’re pieces because of different registrations, whether it’s an IRA, or it’s a taxable account, or it’s Susie or Sally’s, they don’t really care. They want you to know them. It’s that hyper personalization, which I think has changed in our industry so much in evolution. We want to do a mage to be there. 15 years ago, we clearly did. And some advisors we know are doing this, but they’re doing it on maybe an Excel spreadsheet or off the side of their desk. And how do we give that advisor the tools because managing a household takes a lot of time, if it’s not in a comprehensive way. One of the things I also love too, is the Orion billing, the things they can do at the household level was something we were never able to do at Brinker, you know that they can do billing at the sleep level that they can do billing at the total account level that they can change things at the household. Like those are things that they’re so ahead of the curve, and really exciting to be a part of. But I do think the UMH needs to be here. And that’s how people think.

Jack Sharry: Well, as someone who watches the UMH race underway, you guys are right near the front of the pack. So very exciting in terms of what you’re what you’re doing. I want to talk about the future more in just a little bit. But before we get to the future, why don’t we talk about the past a little bit? How did you wind up in this business? I know the story but for our guests maybe give a little background kind of a brief overview. How the heck did you wind up as the president of a FinTech asset manager? A whiz bang company like Orion.

Noreen Beaman: It’s kind of crazy. You know, when I go back and you: you should be. And as I think we both agree that future is FinTech that, frankly, managing money and producing better outcomes for investors and advisors is a function of integrating all the technology that you all are doing with I’m sure more to come.

Jack Sharry: So when we talk a little bit about that. What What’s your crystal ball say? Where does our industry head? Where does Orion head? What’s, what’s the future hold over the next few years?

Noreen Beaman: You know, I’m a big believer is that technology doesn’t cause disruption but unhappy clients do. And I’m stealing a line out of a book. But what I think is important is we think of the consumer, how do we want to interact as consumers with our money? How do we want to visit our money? How do we want to allocate our money? Like, what’s the money’s job, and I think that one of the challenges our industry had is that we were a little slow to move. And then we had disruptors that kind of came in, and Betterment to their credit, we have to give them just, you know, give them their due, they shook it up and we all had to move along. And, you know, we stopped using jargon and making it not accessible. And the millennials are, you know, again, they have money now, but more importantly, before that they had influence over there as a baby boomer mom, my millennial children had influence over my buying decisions. And so I think as we look towards the future, we need to create frictionless experiences for our end investor, the companies that we run look like the clients that we have, as women become a larger part of how we buy do we want to buy the old traditional ways or do we want to engage in ways that make us feel comfortable? And that’s why having the tools available and multimedia, and then how does our next gen wanna buy? So I think that we have to stay focused on the consumer and investor and help those financial advisors drive that. So I think It’s all about as you said, it’s the technology is the delivery system to allow for a really personalized engagement.

Jack Sharry: So I’ve not entered into this turf before, but I’m going to do so with you because I’ve known you for at this point decades, yes, plural, you were a woman leader early, and you’ve sustained that maintain that achieve that. What’s it like? How was that for you? I gotta believe you’re very pleased and proud. But talk about what it’s been like for you?

Noreen Beaman: Well, what I think is interesting, and I’ve read a few things about this is that women who would kind of adapted to the situation they’re in and didn’t really care about it. So I didn’t really care my father raised four girls here all like, boys, we didn’t have any brothers. So you know, again, Hudson County, New Jersey, a little rough and tumble, I would share with you my oldest, she was like 22. At the time, she’s like, Mom, you need to talk more, because it’s not still not fair for women. Now, she’s 30. So she kind of kicked my butt about getting out there and talking about the differences. And then more importantly, I worked at a place where flexibility was key. So Chuck, and John, they both thought about having flexibility and family, I have three children. If I had been in one of the big banks going back, I don’t think I would have been there. But the investments they made allowed me to have some flexibility paid off. So as we think of now, coming out of the pandemic, I got to work at home in 1991. I’ve worked out of the house for 20 years before that was fashionable. I have an office here that’s set up because of that now with the pandemic and how we’ve created this flexible work environment, we need to make sure we’re holding on to that because I’d also think our next gen or millennial won’t even know what they’re calling the I gen when they come along. They’re not they’re going to want a different experience. And then we need to think about that. So as a woman leader, I’m very fortunate to have the people I had around it around me the dude and people like you, Jack, I’m gonna throw it out there. You never treated me any differently. And you were what and think about how long we’ve known each other and very accepting and not all men I met two decades ago might have been as gracious as you works, as I would say. It makes me feel competent in the room. And I think that’s a testament to the people I’ve met.

Jack Sharry: Well, I have to admit something, as we’re talking here. And I’m realizing is almost like don’t take this the wrong way. Because it’s not intended. It’s kind of was genderless. It was sort of beside the point. Yes. Didn’t matter. Yeah, it really didn’t matter. You were just a good person competent, capable, did good work, although.

Noreen Beaman: No matter exactly. And maybe that’s for the function of what Brinker capital, it was the job paid with a job paid. It wasn’t, you know, this was the skills these are what you needed. And that’s what it was about. And it wasn’t about gender. And I think that’s the right thing. It should not be about that. Are you competent? Are you easy to get along with and get work done? I mean, you have to do that. But I think that was nice. When I think about that’s why I’ve made it not every woman had the same experience. So I’m very, very fortunate,

Jack Sharry: I think you would agree with me too, because we’re both big fans of Chuck Widger. I think, as with any organization that always starts at the top, and Chuck is as fine a human being, as I know. And I would add Eric Clarke in that same category just you’ve worked with and are working with really fine human beings.

Noreen Beaman: And that makes a difference, a want to model yourself after positive role models like that. And I have to give Eric Clarke also a very nice compliment. He made a lot of room for me with this merger. And I’ve learned a lot from him and his ability to bring me in and make me feel comfortable in a new environment where it might not have worked out. It’s not unusual for the CEO of the other company to be very unhappy in short order. And I would say the reason it’s working is because of the quality of a person he is and his generosity and allowing that.

Jack Sharry: Yeah, I totally get that and just tend to be a student of effective leaders. And you’re in that category, as is Eric. And my observation is they’ve made acquisitions over time. And speaking of Eric now and Orion, they made the acquisition with the intent of fully integrating them culturally, technologically or capabilities wise, whatever the appropriate terms are, which is really just smart man, I can look at other companies that didn’t do that and are suffering the consequences. It’s

Noreen Beaman: about the talent pool, right? How do you pull the talent back over a year in our attrition at Brinker is about 10% which is some a function of people made some money and they decided that they wanted to do something else. And some, you know, mate might not have stayed at Brinker anyway. Oh, you know, so that’s a low rate regardless. But yeah, I mean, especially in a pandemic. So we’ve been very lucky and new opportunities. I think that’s the other thing and this merger opportunities for our team have just gotten bigger, so exciting.

Jack Sharry: We could keep going on this. We probably should move on, but I’m glad to call you a friend who I’ve watched succeed so graciously. So it’s been fun to watch. Good on you. So we probably should start moving toward our 30 minute mark. And if you would be so kind as to if you have three key points. What are the three key takeaways from our conversation if you were to share that with another perhaps an aspiring future CEO president of a major financial services firm what would you share.

Noreen Beaman: So the three key points one, watch the market outside of your market, like watch, you know, take your head up, pick your head up, look at the different forces outside of your industry, to I think one of the books I highly recommend is only the Paranoid Survive. I think when you look at that book, and you think about inflection points, and especially in our industry, when you think of the regulatory environment where it we may see some changes now, especially think of crypto land, I thought it was interesting, some of the comments that are coming out of the SEC, and you think of technology as a disrupter like Oh, my goodness, and most importantly, the consumer preferences. And, and I think the financial services industry has been in an inflection point, pretty much for the last 10 years, almost since the financial crisis, it takes a long time to kind of muddle your way through, we’ve been fortunate to have really good market performance in that time period. But I still think we’re in a tremendous amount of change. And finally, make sure you stay networked. You know, I think of our relationships back over the years. It’s important because I know if I have a question I can call you, I know if you have a question you can call me. And I think of the relationships I’ve made. And I probably didn’t cherish them as much as I needed to early on. But I do now. And I think that that’s something I look back of all the types of friends I’ve made through the industry, I think of Cheryl Nash and our deep relationship. And Lori Hardwick as you know, women in the industry not having a lot. And so you go through that process. And so networking would be important as well.

Jack Sharry: Yes. So one of the things I actually don’t I haven’t talked about this, but I think I may have mentioned this tea, I wrote a book called authentic and ethical persuasion. And fundamentally, it’s about listening. And one of the things that you and I share is we were at one time wholesalers and pretty good ones at that. And what I’ve always found to be an effective wholesaler, executive, anything, you got to be a good listener, maybe talk about that a little bit, because I never sort of acknowledged that about you. But you’re a great listener. Personally, I find if you’re a good listener, boy, the world just sort of opens up to you. So maybe comment on that, if you would.

Noreen Beaman: I think that the listening part is really around being intellectually curious. Like, I love to hear other people’s stories. And more importantly, if you’re in the room, if you’re listening, it’s verbal, as well as physical cues and paying attention. Then showing that you’re bringing everyone actually good quick tip, I would say now, even when I do virtual stuff, I can tell if someone wants to say something they didn’t. I asked them before we close like, especially for multiple people on a call. Like, we can’t just lean away from that while we’re in this virtual environment. But I think listening, it’s a superpower. And the people who are good listeners, I think end up being most more successful than those who are not.

Jack Sharry: Actually a good friend and colleague as she’s been on our podcast, John Connors, who runs a large digital agency communications agency in Boston, he stole it from someone else, I’ll steal it from him that 98% of people can hear only 4% Listen, and to your point, it’s a superpower if you listen well. And I in my experience with wholesaling I’m sure it’s the same as for you. You just had to listen Yeah, to find out what the advisor was trying to accomplish and what their challenges or issues were and then you show them how to get to the other side to create a win for themselves in their clients. It’s wasn’t that hard.

Noreen Beaman: It was just a matter of finding out and just leaning in and making sure you’re making yourself present and not really listening. So I agree with you.

Jack Sharry: So we’re way off topic from well, tech on deck but sure was fun talking about it. So let’s bring it on home as we do each. Each week when we talk to folks like yourself, I love to find out what you do outside of work. It’s not part of the everyday maybe people that in Berlin would find it surprising that you do something that you’re particularly interested passionate about have fun doing. So what is northern beam and do away from work that people might find interesting or surprising.

Noreen Beaman: So one because I am really I’m from North Jersey, I am an avid New York Giants fan, even this year, I know it’s a tough one who had to tough game and a season ticket holder. So I am like legit go pay attention so my Berwyn friends have figured that out. But I would tell you now a lot of people know that I am like so passionate about the New York Giants and go I’m in finally I have these two giant Bernese Mountain dogs who I just adore. And I’ve become one of those weirdo parents that hey, you know that same Hey, Mommy, come say bye mommy comes to bye daddy, like with my dogs because my children are now grown. So it’s really crazy. But it’s fun.

Jack Sharry: That’s great. That’s great. Well, as always, I mean, it’s such a pleasure to talk to you. You are so full of life and love your you’re just a good human being. And I’m pretty darn competent at that too, so it’s been a lot, a lot of fun. And I really appreciate your taking the time to talk to us today.

Noreen Beaman: Oh, Jack, thank you. It’s been my pleasure. And I loved our conversation. So we have a great day. Yeah, till next time. All right. Thanks, Jack. Take care. Bye now.