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AmeriTrust Appoints Kenny Brown Jr. as Vice President, Business Development

Tulsa wealth management firm also welcomes Jason Simpson as portfolio manager

MEDIA RELEASE
Contact: Taryn Clark  |  405.848.8899

TULSA, Okla., March 24, 2020 – AmeriTrust announced today that Kenny Brown Jr. has been promoted to vice president, business development. Jason Simpson has also joined the firm as portfolio manager. Both are based in the Tulsa office and report to AmeriTrust President Harvie Roe. AmeriTrust provides trust administration, investment management and financial planning services and is part of Argent Financial Group, the largest independent trust-based wealth management company in the South.

Brown will spearhead new client outreach and strengthen current customer relationships. He joined AmeriTrust in 2017 as assistant vice president and portfolio manager, bringing more than 10 years of career experience in the trust and financial services industry. Prior to AmeriTrust, Brown spent four years at Heritage Trust in Oklahoma City, also part of Argent Financial Group. He’s also worked in accounting and financial roles with GuideStone Financial Resources and Fidelity Investments in Dallas, Texas.

“Kenny epitomizes the role of fiduciary and understands that listening before advising is the best way to understand and serve our clients,” said Roe. “He is also a highly-respected professional who is personable and has a sharp analytical mind. We’re lucky to have him at the helm of our business development efforts.”

A registered investment advisor representative, Brown is also a level II candidate in the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) program. He earned his bachelor’s degree in business administration and MBA in finance from Dallas Baptist University.

Before joining AmeriTrust, Simpson worked for three years as a portfolio manager and investment analyst with Bank of Oklahoma in Tulsa. He also spent four years as finance manager for Arms of Love International headquartered in Costa Mesa, California. Simpson is a level III candidate in the CFA program. He holds a bachelor’s degree in American political studies from Northern Arizona University and a master’s degree in economics from Colorado State University.

“When Kenny introduced me to Jason, it quickly became clear why he championed him as the ideal portfolio manager candidate,” said Roe. “His varied background brings added depth to the team and he shares our values of always putting the client first. Jason knows it’s not about products, but people and responsible financial planning. We are looking forward to seeing him thrive in his new role.”

Brown and Simpson are both involved with local industry and charitable organizations including the Oklahoma CFA Society, Tulsa Estate Planning Forum and Community Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma. Simpson also enjoys refereeing for collegiate football games.

About AmeriTrust Corporation

AmeriTrust Corporation is part of the Argent Financial Group family of companies and was formed in 1997 in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The company provides investment management and trust management and administration services, as well as financial planning through a sister company and AmeriTrust Advisors, Inc. AmeriTrust Corporation is responsible for more than $600 million in client assets. For more information, visit www.ameritrusttulsa.com.

About Argent Financial Group

Celebrating its 30th anniversary in 2020, Argent Financial Group (AFG) is a leading independent fiduciary wealth management firm. Responsible for more than $27 billion in client assets, AFG provides individuals, families, institutions and businesses with a broad range of wealth management services including trust administration and related services, investment management, family office services, retirement plan and charitable organization administration, mineral (oil and gas) management, and financial, retirement and estate planning. The company was also recently named for the second year in a row to the Inc. 5000 list of the fastest-growing companies in the U.S. AFG is the only financial services company in Louisiana to make the prestigious list. For more information, visit www.ArgentFinancial.com.

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Market Update – March 20, 2020

BY: JOHN McCOLLUM, CFA
Chief Investment Officer / Argent Trust Company

It’s been a long couple of weeks.

We’ve been presented with a series of events and now face current circumstances that previously had been difficult to imagine. What seemed perhaps unimaginable two weeks ago, for example, the cancellation of in-person classes at schools and universities around the country, has been met with remarkable adaptability. Restaurants forced to shut down have developed effective pick-up and delivery strategies within days. Businesses are figuring out how to accommodate remote workers. Even hospitals are figuring out how to expand the capacity of their respirators which are expected to be in demand. We will see how people react and adapt to the state-wide lockdown orders recently announced. It’s not perfect by any means, and not every business can adapt. We know the next employment report will indicate the reality of the many businesses which have laid-off employees.John McCollum

This pandemic has arrived with alarming speed and already inflicted great pain. The pain, initially, has been caused by both voluntary and government mandated actions intended to delay, and in some areas perhaps prevent, the worst direct impacts of the coronavirus pandemic. Overall, our investment decisions throughout this period have been predicated on the idea that despite a period of extreme economic disruption, somewhat normal business conditions will re-emerge in coming months. Over longer periods, there is no reason to believe that economic activity will not resume its normal pace (with the normal periodic ups and downs).

There will continue to be tremendous government provided support to businesses, institutions and individuals. We have seen encouraging signs so far of the beginnings of this support. The Federal Reserve has cut short term interest rates to zero and implemented or re-started several programs designed to ensure stability in financial markets, especially in some of the areas less publicly visible but critical to normal functioning of markets. The IRS provided the option to defer for 90 days filing and final payments for 2019 tax returns. Congress is working on a bill to provide significant direct relief to those affected by job losses. There will almost assuredly be more to come. We are also beginning to see creativity and innovation, and even some signs of sensible reduction in various rules and regulations as the nation adapts to the realities of slowing the spread of a pandemic.

Markets, at times, have seemed to expect the worst possible outcome. At a time when the fear of the solution is in some ways worse than the disease, we have all been testing and questioning our assumptions. However, throughout all of this, we continue to make changes to investment portfolios when we think we can benefit from what are extreme and judged to be unwarranted short term changes in securities prices.

The Morning View: March 12, 2020

BY: MARSHALL BARTLETT
Senior Vice President / Portfolio Manager

Announced this morning, Initial Jobless Claims fell 4,000 to 211,000 in the week ending March 7th, less than forecast.  In addition, the Producer Price Index, which measures the amount of inflation at the producer level, fell 0.6% in February and has increased 1.3% on an annual basis.  The Producer Price Index at the core level, which excludes food and energy, decreased 0.3% in February and has increased 1.4% on an annual basis.  Overall, while concerns of the novel Coronavirus remain and should eventually negatively affect economic data, initial jobless claims have yet to reflect its impact.  Typically, readings below 300k indicate a healthy job market and claims have remained in the low 200k range for a while.  Additionally, there is limited inflation pressure at the producer level, which gives further support for central banks to remain accommodative, as the European Central Bank just announced they will keep rates at very low levels and intend to provide further stimulus and liquidity tools to help deal with impacts of the Coronavirus.  In all, bond yields are little changed this morning and equities are expected to open lower as futures trading was halted following the fluid flow of information.      

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This material is intended to be for informational purposes only and is intended for current or prospective clients of Argent Trust Company. This information is obtained from sources believed to be reliable, and its accuracy and completeness are not guaranteed. Information does not constitute a recommendation of any investment strategy, is not intended as investment advice and does not take into account all the circumstances of each investor. Forward-looking assumptions are Argent Trust Company’s current estimates or expectations of future events or future results based on proprietary research and should not be construed as an estimate or promise of results that a portfolio may achieve. Actual results could differ materially from the results indicated by this information. Investments can go down as well as up. Past performance is not a reliable indicator of future results.

Market Update – March 9, 2020

Following are comments on recent market activity from Argent’s Chief Investment Officer John McCollum, as well as detail on fixed income markets from Sam Boldrick, comments on the economy from Marshall Bartlett, and an update on the OPEC meeting and its impact on oil prices from David Luke.

General Update – John McCollum, CFA / Chief Investment Officer, Argent Trust Company

From early last summer to recent highs in mid-February, equity markets in the US surged over 20%. Over the last several weeks, markets have given back virtually all of those gains. Foreign equities had not risen as much as those domestically but have fallen similar amounts. The price appreciation in equities seemed to outpace observed fundamentals although there were signs that earnings growth was set to resume and global economic data appeared to be gathering upward momentum. Low interest rates around the world, supported by both markets and central banks, further supported high asset prices.

The net effect of prices rising faster than underlying fundamentals is simply that future returns may be lower. The effect is borrowing from the future in a sense. Because of the apparent mismatch between prices and fundamentals, we have advocated discipline in assessing time horizons and in maintaining asset allocation levels very tight to targets. Strong underlying economic fundamentals, particularly in the labor force, supported maintaining equity positions for long time horizons.

The Coronavirus (COVID-19) began to startle markets in late January and the fears began to really take hold in late February. The concern was not so much about the direct health impact of the virus itself but rather the economic impact of efforts to contain its spread. The world saw first-hand how economic activity in the region of China where the virus originated was ground to a halt as a result of government restrictions on travel and trade. As the virus began to spread to other countries in larger numbers, it appears the market extrapolated the same economic impact to other regions.

We have previously provided a good bit of information from primary sources (CDC, WHO, NIH etc.) about the nature of the virus itself and what individuals can do to minimize their likelihood of infection. Credible sources indicate that warmer weather (in the northern hemisphere), private market actions (work from home policies etc.), and improved hygiene (washing hands really helps!) and education will help to reduce the extent and severity of infections in the U.S. and other parts of the world. What we don’t know (and what we have understood all along that we can’t know) is how widely infections will spread and what will be the economic impact of private market and government policies to contains the virus’ spread. We also don’t have clear and reliable information about when testing will be broadly available or when a vaccine might be developed. The good news is that by most available economic indicators, the US economy, and the employment situation in particular, are starting from a very strong position.

On top of the recent direct fears of the virus, Saudi Arabia and Russia helped drive a decision (or lack of a decision, really) by OPEC to not cut production. See below for more information on this matter. In response, oil prices declined 20% and stock prices of many energy related companies are falling a similar amount while interest rates continue to fall in today’s trading.

We do believe, however, that like all “shocks” to the market, the events and fears affecting prices today will abate in the future. Having been cautious on allocations and disciplined in evaluating time horizons provides our clients the option to use recent changes in market prices to re-balance and to seek opportunity when others are choosing to sell because of fear or forced to sell because of leverage. Additionally, we will continuously monitor economic data, earnings data, and news of the virus and other matters as we consider any changes to allocation recommendations.

Below, please see additional information and commentary on fixed income and interest rates from Sam Boldrick, economic commentary from Marshall Bartlett, and comments on the oil market and the OPEC/Saudi/Russia decision from David Luke.

Fixed Income Update – Sam Boldrick / Director of Fixed Income, Argent Trust Company

With risk asset selling pressures mounting following increased virus-related volatility last week, and oil price cuts over the weekend, we’ve seen a material drop in yields of safe haven U.S. Treasuries across the board. Earlier this morning the bell-weather ten year Treasury yield hit 43bps, a record low.  At the time of this writing the ten year yield is .54%. With trading activity very high, the entire Treasury yield curve still sports a positive slope with the 3 month T-Bill and two year Treasury Note yielding 37bps and 38bps respectively. Needless to say, combined with an unexpected inter-meeting 50 bps rate cut by the FOMC last week and the strong flight to quality bid globally for U.S. Treasuries, yield spreads on other fixed income assets (the difference between the yield of non-Treasury bonds compared to a Treasury of the same maturity) have increased measurably. Not surprisingly, lesser quality fixed income assets have fared worse than investment grade issues as economic concerns raise default concerns across the financial markets.

We are watching these trends closely with particular focus on the high yield and emerging market fixed income sectors for potential opportunities. As a reminder, we monitor the credit quality of our individual bond portfolios ongoing and will report concerns, if any, as they come up.

With yields at historically low levels, and widespread consternation in the financial markets as a whole, it’s our current recommendation to stand pat with our current allocation percentages but to look for dislocations where we might find value. The U.S. Central Bank (the Federal Reserve) has been very active in the credit markets, boosting liquidity through overnight and term repurchases operations, and the futures markets currently anticipate an additional rate cut by the next FOMC meeting later this month. We would be remiss not to mention that the current appetite for negative interest rates in the United States, as reflected by the voting members of the FOMC, is reported to be negligible, and we expect the current atmosphere to eventually abate somewhat. That said, although foreign buying of Treasury notes and bonds from yield-starved and risk-averse investors could possibly test negative territory, we currently do not recommend the purchase of Treasury Notes or Bonds but for cash management purposes.

Economic Update – Marshall Bartlett / Senior Portfolio Manager, Argent Trust Company

Looking at recession probability measures, the odds of a recession in the next 12 months may have increased, but a recession occurring in that time frame is not yet certain.  U.S. Economic data leading into mid-February show a strong labor market, low unemployment, decent consumer spending, and low inflation.  While still weak, manufacturing was beginning to recover some from the U.S. / China trade war.  Business investment had yet to return to previous levels in the cycle.

Considering this data, measures of recession probability are mixed.  Measures which are based on treasury spreads, such as the NY Fed, and the yield curve, such as the Cleveland Fed, do show an increased chance of recession within the next twelve months.  However, recession measures which are based on payrolls, the unemployment rate, and industrial production, such as the St. Louis Fed, do not yet show an increase in the probability of recession.  The Leading Economic Indicators index has stayed positive, however our review of the underlying components show that it may turn negative at its next release.

The extent of how much decreased economic activity due to Coronavirus filters into economic data could drive whether a recession occurs.   The Federal Reserve has already taken some action with their short term interest rate policy, and will likely take additional steps should conditions not improve.  Given inflation is at low levels, it gives them room to act with the limited tools they have at their disposal.  A fiscal response is likely warranted, however given the discord in Washington and upcoming election, it is unclear whether a strong fiscal response is possible.  However, consumer spending could remain strong and lower oil prices should help somewhat.

Our team remains focused on employment data, company earnings reports, and leading indicators as to whether a recession becomes more likely.

Energy Market Update – David Luke / President, Argent Mineral Management

With global oil demand reacting to the global economy slowing due to the virus, Saudi Arabia proposed another output cut to the OPEC+ members last week in an effort to limit supply and stabilize prices.  Russia didn’t want to play ball and declined to vote in favor of the move, which immediately sent prices tumbling.  This worsened over the last few days when Saudi’s response was to do what they have done before when their “Plan A” was refused…they went opposite and have decided to flood the market via a slash of their product price.

What has never made sense is why the U.S. has always able to avoid the cut mandates and been able to sit back and enjoy the pricing climb due to the output cuts of others.  Russia has finally called us out on this…stating this week that they insist that U.S. shale producers should be made to share the plan.  While I hate the timing…I completely understand their stance, unfortunately.

Back to Saudi Arabia – the last time they flooded the market (in an attempt to drive some U.S. shale companies out of business), it backfired on them as the U.S. companies held on, and the Saudi regime took it on the chin and grew tired of watching their stockpile of cash wither away.  Due to this history, I am hopeful that this market flood will be more temporary and more of a reminder to all of their power and ability to control markets, however some believe this one will be drawn out longer by both sides. It is  not clear how U.S. producers will react, however, market price action indicates an expectation that Saudi actions will be painful for U.S. producers.

Investment Commentary: March 2020

BY: FRANK HOSSE
Director of Investments – Argent Trust Company  |  615.385.2720

Fears and concerns about the spread of the coronavirus outside of China and its potential economic impact drove stock markets lower in February. U.S. stocks fell around 8%, while developed international stocks fell a similar amount and emerging-market stocks dropped 5.3% for the month.

The final week of the month was particularly rough for U.S. stocks—falling every day of the week and logging an 11.5% total loss. This was the worst weekly loss for the S&P 500 since October 2008 and the sixth-worst week since the 1930s. It’s fair to say volatility has returned to the markets.

It remains difficult to handicap what the economic impact of the coronavirus will be. But it remains a widely held assumption that the virus will not have a long-term effect on economic growth, although most economists are cutting near-term GDP growth estimates. For example, the OECD recently cut their 2020 global GDP growth estimate to 2.4% from 3% last November. They revised China’s GDP growth sharply to below 5% this year, down from 6.1% last year. They wrote that “broader contagion across the wider Asia-Pacific region and advanced economies—as has happened in China—could cut global growth to as low as 1.5% this year, halving the OECD’s previous 2020 projection from last November.” The risk of a recession has increased in the near term for some countries. For example, Japan will likely be in a recession when their next GDP number is released. Though, in recent days central bankers around the world have said they are ready to act if the economic impact deems it necessary.

Fixed-income markets rallied on the virus fears, as well as an increasing belief that the Federal Reserve would intervene in the markets and cut interest rates. U.S. core bonds gained 1.4% and intermediate-term Treasuries rallied nearly 3% in February—with most of that return coming during the final week of the month. Treasury rates fell to all-time lows, with the 10-year Treasury closing the month at 1.13%. This leaves much of the Treasury curve inverted.

When we started writing this update (on March 2), the markets were sharply reacting to a collapse in China’s Purchasing Management Index. Futures had quickly moved to an extreme position and expected with 100% certainty that the Fed would cut the federal funds rate by 50 basis points at their next FOMC meeting on March 18. The next day Fed chair Jerome Powell cut the policy rate by 50 basis points and the market got the rate cut it was expecting two weeks early. This is the Fed’s first emergency rate cut since the financial crisis in 2008. In the Fed’s press release, they wrote: “The fundamentals of the U.S. economy remain strong. However, the coronavirus poses evolving risks to economic activity.” It’s difficult to see how a rate cut is going to help. Further, it places policy makers in a no-win situation. Market expectations are running way ahead of reality for what policy makers can and will do.


Certain material in this work is proprietary to and copyrighted by Litman Gregory Analytics and is used by Argent Financial with permission. Reproduction or distribution of this material is prohibited, and all rights are reserved.

4 Reasons Why You Should Create a Dynasty Trust To Pass Down Your Wealth

BY: JON DAUBERT, JD, LL.M.
Senior Vice President & Trust Officer – Argent Trust Company  | (210) 581-0436

With federal estate tax exemptions at historic highs, individuals and married couples seeking to support their family and heirs should consider creating a dynasty trust to maximize the wealth they pass down to future generations.

Dynasty trusts have been a powerful tool to preserve and transfer wealth for many years and became even more appealing with the passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 (TCJA). Provisions in the TCJA raised the lifetime estate tax exclusion from $5.5 million in 2017 to $11.58 million (double that amount for husband and wife) in 2020.

That’s the good news. The bad news is that in 2026 the exclusion amount will be rolled back to pre-TCJA levels. Given the uncertain political climate, there’s no guarantee the current exemption will stay in place. Here are four key reasons why you should form a dynasty trust now to capitalize on the generous tax benefits currently in place:

1. Grantors can support their family for generations

One of the primary advantages of a dynasty trust – aside from the estate tax exemption amounts – is that it allows grantors to distribute funds to multiple generations. It’s an ideal wealth management tool that allows grantors to cement their legacy and support their children, grandchildren, great grandchildren, and great, great grandchildren (as well as charitable organizations).

While several states have rules against perpetuities that limit how long a trust can be in place, other states are much more progressive. Tennessee, for example, permits dynasty trusts to last up to 360 years. Fortunately, individuals can create a dynasty trust with a longer duration – even if the trust was created in another state. To ensure another state has jurisdiction over a trust, substantial trust administration must be performed in that state and usually include one of the following:

  • The trustee’s principal place of business must be located in that state
  • Some trust records must be held in the state
  • Income tax returns must be prepared or arranged in the state; and
  • Some trust assets must be held in an account in the state

2. Dynasty trusts allow grantors to determine how wealth is managed

Another appealing factor of a dynasty trust is that grantors can dictate how their wealth will be invested, managed and distributed to beneficiaries. The grantor’s wish for control and governance can be as broad or as strict as desired. Provisions can be included that require beneficiaries to meet certain conditions to receive distributions (to prevent heirs from squandering funds). Clauses also can be added to ensure charitable organizations, for instance, meet certain financial criteria or performance metrics to ensure they are being good stewards of the trust’s money.

3. Family assets are protected with a dynasty trust

A properly written dynasty trust will include provisions that protect trust assets from creditors (commonly referred to as a spendthrift provision). Ownership of the assets is transferred to the trustee, effectively preventing creditors from going after those assets to repay debts or other claims. It also protects family assets if a family member is sued or divorces.

4. Future tax savings could be significant

There are no tax savings (aside from the estate tax exemption) when a dynasty trust is created. The assets funded into a dynasty trust and any appreciation of those assets, however, no longer are included in the grantor’s gross estate for federal estate tax purposes. The future tax savings could be considerable if the trust is governed by the laws of taxpayer friendly states like Tennessee, which has no income tax. Additionally, several states do not have capital gains taxes, so proceeds from the sale of assets are taxed only at the federal level.

To maximize the financial benefits of a dynasty trust, individuals should always consider working with a trust company that operates in a state with low taxes and strong asset protection laws. Our company has offices in Tennessee – which is consistently ranked as one of the most trust-friendly states in the country – for those very reasons.

One final observation: consider enlisting the services of an independent, corporate trustee to administer your dynasty trust. An experienced corporate trustee with a licensed firm can provide proven, professional management skills and will be knowledgeable of applicable trust laws – unlike a family member or friend of the family who is not experienced in the complicated and changing nature of trust regulations.

A dynasty trust can be an ideal strategy to take care of your loved ones and their loved ones for generations to come. When evaluating options, consult with an attorney, CPA or trust professional to make sure a dynasty trust is right for you and your family.

To learn more about the benefits of a Tennessee-chartered dynasty trust, please contact me via email or phone (210-581-0436) or anyone else on our Argent Trust Company team.

The Morning View: February 27, 2020

BY: MARSHALL BARTLETT
Senior Vice President / Portfolio Manager

Announced this morning, the first revision of GDP growth for the fourth quarter 2019 was 2.1%, as expected.  The quarterly increase in core Price Consumption Expenditures (PCE) was 1.2%, slightly lower than expected.  In addition, initial jobless claims for the previous week were 219,000, higher than expected, but still in the low 200k range.  Overall, this data reminds us that while the economy is growing, it is at moderate levels and inflationary pressures are benign, and this is before the impact of the spread of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) globally, causing markets to react in recent days.  Until there is some clarity of the impact on the global economy and how world leaders will respond, market volatility will likely continue.  We continue to monitor these events, keeping in mind individual risk tolerances and long-term goals.  In all, bond yields ticked lower this morning and equity futures are also lower as we head into the market open. 

This material is intended to be for informational purposes only and is intended for current or prospective clients of Argent Trust Company. This information is obtained from sources believed to be reliable, and its accuracy and completeness are not guaranteed. Information does not constitute a recommendation of any investment strategy, is not intended as investment advice and does not take into account all the circumstances of each investor. Forward-looking assumptions are Argent Trust Company’s current estimates or expectations of future events or future results based on proprietary research and should not be construed as an estimate or promise of results that a portfolio may achieve. Actual results could differ materially from the results indicated by this information. Investments can go down as well as up. Past performance is not a reliable indicator of future results.

Just Because You Can Doesn’t Mean You Should: Why You Need a Corporate Trustee

Originally published to the Winter 2020 edition of The Southerner, a newsletter of the Southern Cremation & Funeral Association

BY: DEBBIE HOLMES
VP & Trust Officer-Funeral & Cemetery Trusts, Argent Trust Company | (318) 251-5856

The adage “Just Because You Can Doesn’t Mean You Should” is advice given to someone who is not using their resources in a wise way. Here in the South we also hear it used as advice given to someone regarding their wardrobe or questionable activities. It means even though there are things you can do; it does not always mean it is the best choice to do them.Debbie Holmes

There are some states that currently allow or have previously allowed you to act as your own trustee. Sounds good, right? You are saving money on those trustee fees! But is it a wise decision to not engage a trust professional, especially in an industry as complex as ours?

Trust companies and banks with trust departments are required to become “eligible” to serve as a trustee for Funeral Home and Cemetery trust accounts. A trustee may be eligible to serve in your state for any other type of trust but may be prohibited from serving in our industry due to additional qualifications. A corporate trustee that is eligible to serve in your state already has the stamp of approval from your regulators!

Corporate trustees bring a wealth of knowledge to the table. In the Funeral and Cemetery trust profession, the knowledge is specialized since it is state-specific. It is part of a corporate trustee’s job to monitor any legislative changes that will affect trust administration. Large trust companies will have a dedicated staff, often including an attorney, monitoring the states in which they are qualified. They will also provide career Funeral and Cemetery trust professionals that handle the day to day administration of your account. These individuals are familiar with all areas of trust administration and are also responsible for having the specialized knowledge for the states they serve.

Another reason to use a corporate trustee is to gain connections to other Funeral and Cemetery trust professionals such as tax preparers, investment managers and record keepers. Your trustee should have a preferred tax preparer who is experienced with Funeral and Cemetery trusts tax preparation. This can be a money-saving feature because a trustee is able to negotiate a lower fee due to the volume of business.

A corporate trustee has a fiduciary duty to act solely in the interest of their clients both legally and ethically. When you hire a corporate trustee, you gain an unbiased advisor to add to your team to help your business succeed. A corporate trustee in our industry has the honor of assisting you in serving your communities.

You may be allowed to forgo a corporate trustee, but you could let a corporate trustee serve you as you take care of your business.

3 Ways the SECURE Act Could Change Your Retirement Plan Strategy

Originally published on fwtx.com on February 3, 2020

BY: KATHY CHRISTOFFEL, CTFA
Market President, Argent Trust-Fort Worth Market
(817) 502-3586

New regulations passed by Congress and signed into law by President Trump at the end of 2019 contain several provisions that could have a significant financial impact on your retirement savings.

The changes are included in the Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement Act (SECURE Act), which went into effect on Jan. 1. This landmark legislation marks the first major step forward by regulators in more than 10 years that is designed to help Americans save for retirement.

It’s welcome news for many Americans, especially those who are struggling to build their nest egg or simply don’t know the best approach to save for retirement. A survey by the CFP Board, a financial planning trade organization, found that nearly half of adults (48 percent) said they are not setting aside money for retirement. The same poll also revealed that two in three adults said they are not receiving retirement planning advice from a financial professional.

As you might expect with federal regulations, there are rules that will help the average American, but also provisions that are less taxpayer friendly. Provided below are three important changes to IRS regulations on retirement accounts. Please consult with your financial advisor so you know how it will affect you.

1. Age Restrictions on IRA Contributions Removed

One of the best features of the SECURE Act is that individuals who are still working past traditional retirement age can contribute to a traditional individual retirement account (IRA) as long as they receive earned income. The old regulations prevented individuals from adding to their IRA after they reached 70 ½ years of age. That’s great news for the growing number of retirement-age Americans who are still working.

2. Age Increased For Required Minimum Distributions

Another benefit of the Act is the age that individuals must begin required minimum distribution (RMDs) from their IRAs – or the minimum amount that must be withdrawn each year from an account – was increased to 72 years of age from 70 ½. Unfortunately, anyone who reached age 70 ½ in 2019 or earlier cannot take advantage of the change. The IRS also left in place a 50 percent penalty on any distribution shortfall below the RMD.

3. “Stretch” IRAs No Longer Allowed

Now for the bad news. The IRS has placed a significant restriction on inherited IRAs, commonly referred to as “stretch IRAs.” All funds held in an inherited IRA must now be distributed by the end of the 10th calendar year following the year of the IRA owner’s death. Under the old rules non-spousal beneficiaries were allowed to “stretch” the RMDs over their life expectancy. The change could have a negative tax effect on beneficiaries in their 40s or 50s, who can no longer stretch RMDs over decades. Fortunately, the IRS left unchanged rules for surviving spouses if they choose to become the owner of the IRA instead of the beneficiary, in which case the surviving spouse’s normal RMD timeline applies.

The SECURE Act ushers in some welcome – and much needed – improvements to help individuals protect and grow their wealth. I urge you to meet with your financial advisor and review your retirement plan to make sure you are on the right path to meet (and hopefully exceed) your financial goals.

About the author: Kathy Christoffel serves as market president for Argent Trust Company’s Fort Worth wealth management team where she oversees business development and provides client solutions. A certified trust and financial advisor, Kathy has 27 years of experience as a trust and wealth management professional. She is also involved with several professional organizations, including the American Bankers Association, Tarrant County Probate Bar and Institute of Certified Bankers

The Morning View: February 7, 2020

BY: MARSHALL BARTLETT
Senior Vice President / Portfolio Manager

Announced this morning, the economy added 225,000 jobs in January, more than expected.  Both the construction and health care industries were strong, while manufacturing remains weak.  The unemployment rate ticked higher by one tenth to 3.6% as people re-entered the workforce.  Average Hourly Earnings increased 0.2% in January and have increased 3.1% on an annual basis, slightly higher than expected.  Overall, a strong headline jobs number with wage growth increasing, but at a very moderate pace, suggesting little upward pressure on inflation.  The Federal Reserve is likely to remain on hold with their accommodative policy.  In all, bond yields and equities are both lower early in today’s trading. 

This material is intended to be for informational purposes only and is intended for current or prospective clients of Argent Trust Company. This information is obtained from sources believed to be reliable, and its accuracy and completeness are not guaranteed. Information does not constitute a recommendation of any investment strategy, is not intended as investment advice and does not take into account all the circumstances of each investor. Forward-looking assumptions are Argent Trust Company’s current estimates or expectations of future events or future results based on proprietary research and should not be construed as an estimate or promise of results that a portfolio may achieve. Actual results could differ materially from the results indicated by this information. Investments can go down as well as up. Past performance is not a reliable indicator of future results.

Argent Financial Group Employee Spotlight – Lance Johnson

Introducing the Argent Financial Group Employee Spotlight! Every two weeks, a different employee will be featured. For our first Q&A, meet Lance Johnson.

Q: What led you to Argent and what makes it unique?

A: In 2014, Heritage Trust’s Oklahoma City oil and gas division had an issue arise and the VP of the department recruited me and another professional to help — we’ve both been here since.  Argent and Heritage is a combination of equals, and its family atmosphere makes it unique. Many firms descend into corporateness, but Argent has steadfastly maintained its close internal family/relationship business model.

Q: Why do you enjoy working at Argent?

A: One, for the unique reason above, but most of all because our department’s president, David Luke, is a macro manager. He expects and respects hard work, a willingness to tackle big issues and commitment to the myriad of tasks required to effectively operate a successful, client-oriented oil and gas department. And he empowers all his staff members to accomplish these goals.

Q: What does the company mean to you?

A: It means a daily opportunity to enter a beautiful building, provide a large number of client requirements and interact with top-quality business professionals who also enjoy the company — as shown in their demeanor and attitudes.

Q: Share a favorite memory from your time at Argent?

A: It is a collective memory — having a small, but very satisfying role in helping families maximize the financial benefits from their oil and gas mineral ownership.

Q: If you could have any other job for one day, what would it be?

A: A Big 5 Photo Safari guide in Kruger National Park, South Africa.

Q: What is your favorite quote?

A: “The poorest way to face life is to face it with a sneer. A cynical habit of thought and speech, a readiness to criticize work which the critic himself never tries to perform, an intellectual aloofness which will not accept contact with life’s realities — all these are marks, not … of superiority but of weakness. It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” Theodore Roosevelt, April 23, 1910, 3 p.m. at the Sorbonne, Paris.

The Morning View: January 31, 2020

BY: MARSHALL BARTLETT
Senior Vice President / Portfolio Manager

In this morning’s data, Personal Spending grew 0.3% in December as expected. Personal Income increased 0.2% in December, slightly lower than expected. The core Personal Consumption Expenditures (PCE) deflator, a measure of inflation that excludes food and energy, increased only 1.6% on an annual basis. Overall, spending and income had modest increases in December, but are likely enough to continue to support the current, moderate level of economic growth. The first reading GDP growth in the fourth quarter 2019 was 2.1%, as announced yesterday. In addition, inflation remains benign and below the 2% target set by the Federal Reserve, suggesting no change to the accommodative monetary policy currently in place. In all, bond yields are slightly lower and equity futures are also lower heading into the market open.

This material is intended to be for informational purposes only and is intended for current or prospective clients of Argent Trust Company. This information is obtained from sources believed to be reliable, and its accuracy and completeness are not guaranteed. Information does not constitute a recommendation of any investment strategy, is not intended as investment advice and does not take into account all the circumstances of each investor. Forward‐looking assumptions are Argent Trust Company’s current estimates or expectations of future events or future results based on proprietary research and should not be construed as an estimate or promise of results that a portfolio may achieve. Actual results could differ materially from the results indicated by this information. Investments can go down as well as up. Past performance is not a reliable indicator of future results.