Like most businesses, Argent Financial Group did not know what to expect when the COVID pandemic began almost two years ago. I certainly did not foresee us setting records for growth. Yet that is exactly what we did in both 2020 and 2021. As 2021 draws to a close, Argent is responsible for nearly $37 billion in client assets, up from $23 billion just 2 years ago. By any standard, this fact is remarkable!
How is this even possible? Especially when you consider that, generally speaking, the personal trust business is a low-growth industry?
Clearly, we have benefitted from offering diversified lines of business (but still as a fiduciary). Also, because other entities (notably banks) in the trust and wealth management industry continue to move toward a product sales mentality. They have a business case for doing so; selling products is more profitable than providing services.
But that’s not the best explanation for our astonishing growth.
It has been said that the pandemic revealed who and what companies really are. I think it showed Argent to be a company with a core commitment to personal service. When personal contact became all but impossible during the worst days of the pandemic, Argent professionals somehow found a way to give our clients personal attention and world-class service. I think this, more than anything, accounts for our company’s strong growth during a very difficult time.
In a low-growth industry during a global health and economic crisis, a company like Argent grows by being excellent at what we do – not only technically competent, but a true fiduciary, honor-bound to put the client’s best interests first. This is the ultimate in personal service.
As I have said many times, a good trustee is a good servant. And the best trustees are servant leaders. That is, they combine unusual business acumen with the heart of a servant. At Argent we call this humble confidence, and it is goes to our very DNA as a company. We are trusted professionals who listen first and then have the competence to confidently recommend the best course of action.
This rare combination is great news for the clients we serve – all those families and individuals who want their affairs taken care of properly, compassionately, and with a high degree of trust.
Call it what you wish – humble confidence or servant leadership – this is the primary reason Argent is growing even during trying times. We are known and respected for our ability to manage generations of wealth. This expertise in preserving and growing financial legacies – and in planning for succession – has been baked into Argent from the beginning.
Other factors have also contributed to our growth. These have to do with decisions we made in recent years.
Four years ago we began bringing back-office operations in-house. This gave us more immediate control over our organization. It resulted in greater efficiency and a higher quality of service. Because we are no longer dependent on outsourced providers for these services, we suffered no downtime during the pandemic. We have an excellent operations staff that is as committed to service as our direct client-facing staff.
Another investment in the future made in recent years that is fueling our growth has been opening offices in eight new markets strategically located throughout the South: Austin, Dallas and Fort Worth in Texas, New Orleans and Baton Rouge in Louisiana, Jackson and Oxford in Mississippi and Birmingham in Alabama. We were able to staff these offices with outstanding professionals mostly because of our competitors’ move away from the personal trust business. This provided us the opportunity to bring some very fine trust officers on board in markets we had been eyeing for some time.
Having great people in growing markets is essential to our way of doing business. It allows for more local decision-making and a higher level of client service. Having a personal connection with our clients allows us to be better informed about the nuances of each individual’s and family’s situation This kind of service really cannot be delivered virtually – not very well, at least. No doubt, there is a market for providing trust services remotely, but it is not the first choice of our clients, nor is it our preference.
We have found that our philosophy of personal service is attractive not only to discerning clients, but also to talented wealth management professionals, who appreciate the respect and collegial environment they find at Argent. The professionals also value our entrepreneurial, non-bureaucratic approach that allows smart people to do the next right thing. Most of our managers have run their own businesses. We provide them with the freedom to do what they do best.
We believe that our clients will prosper, and we will succeed, when every person at Argent is freed up to do what they do best. All it takes is having the right people – and I’m confident we do. This is the main reason we can grow at a record-setting pace during a challenging time. It always comes back to great people doing excellent work.
I am grateful for our Argent team, and I cannot wait to see how the next years will unfold.