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VOL. 6 | NO. 10 | Saturday, March 02, 2013

Argent Financial Sees Growth in Memphis, Beyond

By Andy Meek

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Argent Financial Group hasn’t let its foot off the gas since arriving in Memphis.

The Louisiana-based wealth management firm, which is now responsible for more than $5.5 billion in client assets, has continued to expand both in Memphis and beyond.

In recent days, Argent Financial Group – the Memphis office of which is based in The Crescent Center – announced its acquisition of The Trust Co. of San Antonio.

We found a group of professionals who want to provide true, independent advice to their customers and who like our model. And they believe the Nashville market is ready for that kind of approach.”

– George Pappas
President and senior trust officer, Argent Trust Co. of Tennessee

Founded in 1997, The Trust Co. is based in San Antonio and has an additional office in Corpus Christi, Texas. It will continue both as a separate entity and as a subsidiary of Argent Financial Group.

Argent founder and CEO Kyle McDonald said his company had been looking for options that would give the firm a Texas presence. And joining forces with The Trust Co., he said, “ensures our ability to continue providing exceptional experience for our clients.”

Closer to home, meanwhile, just last month Argent reached a deal to merge with Highland Capital Management, a longtime Memphis-based investment advisory firm.

Founded 25 years ago, Highland is led by president Steve Wishnia, who’s joining Argent’s board of directors. Post-merger, Highland is keeping its name and management team.

“We fit well together, both professionally and culturally,” Wishnia said. “Importantly, Highland will now have access to a much broader geographic presence to deliver portfolio management services.”

Argent portfolio managers are expected to join Highland this year as the firms combine their portfolio management resources under Highland’s banner. And the expanded Highland team will provide oversight and ongoing management for all portfolio management functions of the combined firms.

Those are only some of the most recent examples of Argent’s growth.

Last year, Argent announced its expansion into Nashville, with the opening of a new office there that would house four employees to start.

Two of the new additions were part of Argent subsidiary Argent Trust Co. of Tennessee. Howard Safer joined Argent Trust as its CEO and as a member of its board of directors, and Mindy Hirt joined Argent Trust as vice president and wealth adviser.

Safer joined James “Jamie” Jones as local Nashville board members of Argent Trust Co. of Tennessee.

“We found a group of professionals who want to provide true, independent advice to their customers and who like our model,” said George Pappas, president and senior trust officer for Argent Trust Co. of Tennessee. “And they believe the Nashville market is ready for that kind of approach.”

McDonald said Nashville was the next logical step for Argent in Tennessee beyond Memphis.

Moves like that have been pretty much the pattern for Argent almost every year since entering the Memphis market. Argent acquired Memphis-based Investment Counsel and Trust Co. in 2009, renaming it Argent Trust Co. of Tennessee and adding experienced local professionals to the staff.

In 2010, Argent inked a lease at The Crescent Center. And in 2011, Argent announced its acquisition of Sector Capital Management LLC, a company founded in 1995. Sector retained its full team, and the group expanded not long after that when other Argent portfolio management professionals joined them.

The current entity is named Argent Sector Capital Management.

Before founding Sector Capital, Sector CEO Bill Gurner was the manager of trust investment at FedEx, where he directed the investment of $3 billion in employee benefit assets.

Today, the company’s management team represents more than 100 years of collective investment experience. That experience includes managing equity accounts for corporations, retirement funds, foundations and more.

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