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Tuesday, Oct. 9, 2018

Argent Financial Group/Inc. Magazine

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Ruston-based company continues to grow

When Kyle McDonald and two others started Argent Financial Group in 1990, they did not aspire to make Inc. Magazine’s prestigious list of the nation’s fastest-growing private companies.

But now that they have, McDonald is appreciative of what it took to be included.

“We are very honored and humbled,” McDonald said of the honor – a first for Argent. “A lot of people worked hard to help us grow the company. It’s nice to get that kind of recognition.”

The Inc. Magazine list – now in its 37th year – ranks companies according to percentage revenue growth between 2014- 2017. Revenues in 2014 must have been at least $100,000 and at least $2 million in 2017.

“I can remember when originally we were trying to get to $100 million in client assets and a million in revenue,” McDonald said. “Now, we’re at $19 billion in client assets and $60 million in revenue. We didn’t think we were going to get here necessarily, but we didn’t put anything in place that would keep us from getting here.”

That includes Argent’s birthplace of Ruston, La.

“When we started the company,” McDonald remembered, “someone made a comment: ‘There may be a limit to things we can do in Ruston, but there’s no limit of things we can do from Ruston.’” Despite its growth – 29 locations in 12 states – Argent continues to call Ruston “home.”

“We value the quality of life we have in Ruston,” McDonald said. “Coming from a small town – what some would call a small market in North Louisiana – it’s nice to see a group that started there can achieve some good things.”

On the same day Argent was born, the company opened an office in Shreveport (now inside the Regions Tower downtown). McDonald said that was an indication of just how important the Shreveport- Bossier City area was – and still is – to the company.

“We continue to grow there,” McDonald said, pointing out that the original staff of three has increased to 20. “We just added a long-term trust officer. We added staff from other places and helped grow some staff.”

McDonald earned a finance degree from Louisiana Tech and a law degree from LSU. The now 59-year-old was practicing law in Baton Rouge when he came to Ruston to restart the trust department at what was then Ruston State Bank.

“Argent is really a spinoff of that trust department at the old Ruston State Bank,” McDonald explained.

Looking back, McDonald believes a couple of things have been vital to Argent’s growth. One of them was recognizing the potential for success.

“We felt like there was an opportunity for an independent trust-based wealth management firm,” McDonald said. “We had our sights pretty localized. We felt like there was a place for us in northern Louisiana and other places in Louisiana originally.”

“There were some really good trust departments when I got in the business,” McDonald said. “We felt like there was an opportunity for us to carve out a niche. Those have continued to consolidate, those originals like First National Bank, Commercial National Bank, Louisiana Bank – they have all changed, and it created opportunities for us. There was a lot of banking consolidation going on in the early 90s, and we felt like that was our opportunity.”

Another key is the way Argent treats the people with whom they do business.

“I think our focus on client service,” McDonald said. “We’re almost old school in how we approach the work that we do for our clients. Many of the larger organizations have somewhat abandoned our particular part of the industry, which is serving as the trustee or fiduciary – just being able to focus on clients as a private company, and we’re starting to see the rewards from that.”

But no matter how much money Argent makes, no matter how many states in which they have locations, nothing takes the place of the gratitude McDonald has for the people who believed in him and his partners in the beginning.

“When you’re a small start-up player, there were some people who allowed us to serve them early on that allowed us to stay in business, let alone having any success. We value those early relationships. It was hard. We were the new entity – the smallest entity of the firms we were competing against. “ That faith has continued. “We have clients that have entrusted more assets to us than we did in the mid-’90s, McDonald said. “We have clients that we have over $100 million that we are responsible for – either families or charitable entities. We didn’t even have $100 million in the early stages of client assets and total.”

To learn more about Argent Financial Group, you may visit www.argentfinancial.com. To see Inc. Magazine’s list of the nation’s fastestgrowing private companies, you may visit www.inc.com/inc5000.

– Tony Taglavore

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