Orion Advisor Solutions announced Monday that it plans to expand its footprint in the 529 plan industry and has hired Rob Percival, a former Ascensus college savings executive for 17 years, as its new senior vice president of strategic relationships to spearhead the effort.
More than 14.56 million 529 savings accounts held a total of $373.5 billion in assets in the U.S. last year, according to data collected by the College Savings Plan Network. Orion plans to snatch some of that market and become the turnkey asset manager for the 529 niche, in addition to its hyper-focus on baby boomers in retirement supported by its acquisition of Brinker Capital.
For Orion, focusing on these niche markets is a play to scale and compete in the competitive TAMP industry, said CEO Eric Clarke.
Orion currently serves as program manager for Texas’ 529 plan and partners with the program managers for Mississippi and Vermont, a company spokesperson confirmed. While Orion plans to play a broader role in the 529 space, Percival’s initial focus will be on working with its existing state partners to identify what growth opportunities exist.
“The funding gap is one of the biggest barriers to higher education in America, and 529 plans are one of the most effective tools to help families bridge that gap,” Percival said. “We see ourselves winning new 529 business in two ways: as a direct state program manager and as a strategic partner for other program managers.”
Orion’s investment management business began serving state plans in 2014, according to the announcement.
Orion’s technology tools will serve as the catalyst for more adoption of 529 plans by advisers and their clients. The TAMP intends to leverage its planning software to push its network of 2,100 advisory firms to create better outcomes for 529 plan participants while using its automated marketing campaign builder, Market*r, to help advisers drive program adoption, Percival said.
The acceleration into the 529 space is supported by Orion’s greater size and scale in the wake of its merger with competing TAMP Brinker Capital. Together, they create an investment manager and technology provider with approximately $44 billion in managed assets.
“Today, Orion is even larger and more capable of serving education savings plans,” said Bill Wostoupal, Orion’s chief of strategic relationships. “We have the tools to dramatically grow our footprint in the 529 industry, and Rob gives us the institutional connections and expertise to make it happen.”
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