NorthStar began with two independent companies. The founders of NorthStar, Michael Miola and Patrick Clarke, were running their own businesses when, in the late 90’s, they made similar decisions that would later interlink their companies forever.
We begin with Michael Miola, who has specialized in serving the investment industry since 1974. In 1983, Michael founded American Data Services, Inc. (“ADS”). His goal was to design a mutual fund accounting system that would operate on personal computers. This opened the industry to investment advisers that had marvelous track records but simply couldn’t afford the massive mainframe systems that were required at the time to process the huge daily transaction volumes. By 1998, ADS was among the top twenty mutual fund service organizations in the United States, servicing over 150 mutual funds with assets in excess of $6 billion. In August 1998, Michael was featured in the annual mutual fund edition of Forbes Magazine as the mutual fund organizer to watch.
Patrick Clarke was also defining his path. Patrick entered the financial services industry in 1972 as a stockbroker. In 1975, along with his former boss, Patrick helped pioneer the concept of financial planning by organizing and operating a financial planning firm in Omaha, Nebraska. During this time, Patrick developed a methodology for individual investing, based on clients’ unique situations, including their goals, stage in life, personal circumstances and risk tolerance. By 1988 other financial planners were asking Patrick to apply his methodology for their clients. This led him to increasingly focus on being a third party asset manager for other financial planners. To realize his ambition of third party money management, in 1989, Patrick acted as the majority partner in creating an independent asset allocation firm and introduced the money management methodology still used today by his company. With Patrick’s direction, that company, eventually named CLS Investments, LLC (“CLS”), grew from $20 million in assets under management to several billion dollars today. Over the next 10 years, many timely decisions continued the success of Patrick’s business. For instance, in order to increase efficiency, he looked for new portfolio management software to perform the back-office functions for CLS. After evaluating and returning three different off-the-shelf systems, Patrick finally hired individuals to design and program his own back-office software which was later called AdvisorLynx. Around this time, Patrick made a move to consolidate control by acquiring the shares of his partners. During this period, CLS Brokerage Services, a broker/dealer, was also formed.
Michael and Patrick first became acquainted when they independently sold their companies to an international organization with ambitions to create a strong presence in the US. In August of 1999, Michael sold ADS and Patrick followed soon after, selling his companies in January of 2000. Under the terms of the agreements both Michael and Patrick continued to manage the operations of their companies. Almost 2 years into the experience, they both realized that their companies were headed in the wrong direction and knew that they would be more successful together. At that time, they decided to join forces to buy back the original companies. As a result, NorthStar Financial Services Group, LLC was formed in 2003. Beginning in January of that year, CLS and ADS were back under the control of their founders. Several important decisions were made at this point. ADS was re-branded as Gemini Fund Services, LLC. The previous holding company had retained ownership of CLS Brokerage Services, so Patrick and Michael founded Northern Lights Distributors, LLC to maintain securities licenses and distribute Gemini’s mutual funds. The back-office software solution Patrick had developed earlier for CLS was established as another company, Orion Advisor Services, LLC, in order to provide its services to outside firms. In 2005, Michael and Patrick formed and capitalized Constellation Trust Company to provide custody services for the NorthStar companies.
Future of NorthStar
NorthStar continues to take advantage of new opportunities in the financial services industry and develop new companies to meet client needs and provide solutions for their own companies. Our executive management is continuing the vision originally established by Michael and Patrick. NorthStar exists to innovate and develop products and services, strengthen our partners, and provide tools and resources to empower investment advisors.