Author Archive for Taryn Clark

Argent Financial Group Employee Spotlight – Timothy Barrett

What led you to Argent and what makes it unique? Why do you enjoy working at Argent? What does the company mean to you?

Nicole Nally led me to Argent. That said, she and I had been discussing an opportunity to work together for several years before she joined Argent, but her predecessor firms weren’t a good fit for me. In 2014, I was faced with moving to Florida if I wanted to stay with my predecessor firm or find another opportunity. I was seriously considering returning to a law practice when I heard from Nicole.

What makes Argent unique is just how receptive it has been to innovation and exploring new markets and strategies. Argent has been both nimble and savvy in its choices in these areas. I feel that my expertise has been greatly appreciated and encouraged.

The people I work with at Argent are as highly motivated and determined as they are competent and experienced. I enjoy the challenges they bring to me and the many opportunities I find to contribute to Argent’s success.

What is on your wish list for the next 10 years with Argent?

Most of our competitors have difficulty simply getting out of their own way. Argent is reaching a crossroad in its evolution where it will choose a path to continue to invest in its diverse markets in a way that encourages innovation and individuality or the more typical path toward homogeneous thought and offerings. Consistency and centralization are highly beneficial in estimating fixed and direct costs for multi-year strategic planning. But a willingness to tolerate and support exceptional activity, to experiment within controlled tolerances and to invest in and then dissolve strategic ventures if they don’t pay off, is essential to those market captures that established firms can usually only fondly recall.

What’s the biggest trend you see in your field right now?

I’m seeing a trend toward income tax reduction strategies focused on state and local taxes. The recently passed Secure Act includes an attack on inherited IRA’s that reduces the long-term income tax deferral employees have expected by eliminating any required minimum distribution rules for an inherited IRA except for one, the entire inherited IRA must be distributed within ten years. In another blow, the TCJA limits the deduction for state and local taxes to $10,000 for taxpayers who itemize deductions on their federal income tax returns.

The most valuable planning is in establishing estate planning trusts in states that do not levy any state income tax or exempt nonresident trusts from state taxes. The trend now is on identifying all the many income-producing assets and income streams that can be transferred to such trusts in a way that still allows the current owner to benefit from the income but pay less income tax. This kind of income tax planning may be more beneficial to wealthier taxpayers than contributing to deferred compensation and retirement plans that will eventually be distributed as ordinary income subject to both state and federal taxation.

If you could meet anyone, dead or alive, who would it be and why?

Every once in a while, our friends’ group will discuss who we’d invite to a cocktail party if we had to choose just ten people, dead or alive, with two stipulations, the attendees must be mortal and must ensure a lively conversation.   So, my last list included: W.E.B. Du Bois, William F. Buckley, Jr., Winston Churchill, Thomas Edison, Tom Hanks, Bob Hope, Karl Jung, Frida Kahlo, Thurgood Marshall and Carl Sagan.

Strategies For Benefits Executives To Safeguard Employer Retirement Plan Contributions

BY: CHRIS SHANKLE, CPA, CGMA
Senior Vice President, Argent Institutional Services

Chris Shankle

The financial impact of the coronavirus pandemic has put company executives under new pressure to prudently manage the cost of retirement plans and preserve the all-important employer match to employee retirement contributions.

Employer participation in defined contribution plans, such as 401(k) or 403(b) plans or a SIMPLE IRA, play a vital role in helping employees save for retirement. The economic toll of COVID-19, however, has resulted in a growing number of companies considering or actively reducing, suspending or eliminating retirement plan contributions. Some of the country’s most well-known companies – such as Best Buy, Dell Technologies, Hewlett Packard Enterprises and Norwegian Cruise Lines – had suspended their 401(k) match as of June 18, according to the Center for Retirement Research (CRR) at Boston College.

History, unfortunately, has repeated itself. During the Great Recession, CRR researchers identified more than 200 companies that suspended or terminated retirement plan contributions, which affected around five percent of total U.S. retirement plan participants. CRR also found that only 75 percent of those companies restored their match when the economy rebounded.

Benefits executives can avoid taking the draconian step of ending employer contributions by reviewing certain costs related to retirement plan administration and temporarily shifting those expenses to the retirement plan. The charges would reduce participant investment returns for the short-term, but preserve the employer match (and help workers save for retirement) while the business recovers from the pandemic.

How the federal government classifies retirement plan fees

Retirement plan fees are categorized by the Department of Labor (DOL) as “administrative,” which cover plan administration and investment management (and can be charged to the plan), or “settlor,” which cover plan formation (and cannot be changed to the plan). Examples of administrative expenses:

  • Participant recordkeeping
  • Form 5500 filing
  • Employee enrollment/communications materials
  • Plan audit fees
  • Cost of a fidelity bond

Examples of settlor expenses:

  • Consulting expenses for plan adoption
  • Accounting fees to prepare disclosures in the company’s financial statements
  • Actuarial costs to forecast pension expense for plan sponsor’s balance sheet reporting

Plan expense accounts are generally funded from the revenue-sharing dollars created from 12b-1 expenses (such as mutual fund marketing or distribution charges), sub-transfer agent fees or shareholder servicing fees collected from the investments. Plan expense accounts also can be funded with credits written into the contract with the retirement plan recordkeeper.

The importance of reviewing plan expenses

Plan sponsors should review vendor contracts and investments to understand fully how these fees are applied to the plan expense account. This analysis also allows plan sponsors to determine if the fees are reasonable, which is an annual requirement on the form 5500 filing. Cash balances that build over time in the plan expense account can help defray some out-of-pocket administrative expenses associated with the plan – which can then be applied toward the employer contribution.

One such expense commonly paid by the employer that can be easily allocated to the plan expense account is the cost of the annual plan audit that accompanies filing form 5500. In many instances, the audit costs and similar plan management expenses are reported as corporate general and administrative expenditures to reduce federal, state and local taxes. When cash flow gets tight, however, sponsors may be able to allocate those expenses across participant accounts.

When the plan pays expenses, the plan sponsor has an obligation to ensure that the fees are reasonable for the services being provided. In addition, the plan must clearly state that the expense is allowable. Care must also be taken to ensure that the costs are for plan administrative (and benefit plan participants) and not settlor functions that benefit the plan sponsor. The DOL provides guidance to help plan sponsors allocate plan costs correctly.

The one-two punch of the COVID-19 pandemic and rising healthcare costs has resulted in a growing number of employees who have fewer dollars to save for retirement. By re-thinking how plan expenses are allocated, benefits executives can play a major role helping employees build their nest egg by safeguarding the employer match to retirement plans.

Argent Financial Group Employee Spotlight – Kimberly Breithaupt

What led you to Argent and what makes it unique?

Someone recommended me to Argent so they called me for an interview. I was very fortunate to have the opportunity to start out in 1996 while we were still a Louisiana state-chartered trust company and watch our company grow so significantly over the years. I love that Argent offers such a wide array of financial services in so many markets.

Why do you enjoy working at Argent? 

My work at Argent is always interesting. I feel like I never have the same day twice because of how unique our business is. I enjoy the family feel of Argent.

What does the company mean to you?

Argent has been my lifeline for half of my life. They gave me a career I did not expect while allowing me to complete my undergraduate and graduate degrees. They continue to give me opportunities to further my education with conferences and other learning opportunities.

Recount a favorite memory or project from your time at Argent.

It’s really difficult to pick a favorite memory at Argent because there have been so many! I can recall once when I participated in a 4-man scramble golf tournament with an Argent-sponsored team. We placed in the top three and were rewarded with four gift certificates to the local golf store. Kyle McDonald, in a group setting with various employees, announced our successful tournament and gave me all the credit for the win (which was only partially correct). He gave me all four of the gift certificates in front of everyone and told me not to share them with my teammates. That is an example of Kyle’s good humor and fun nature. I have always appreciated the way he intentionally interacts with staff at all levels.

What is a random fact about you?

I’m a certified Body Combat Instructor.

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

Fitness instructor at a tropical resort!

What motivates you?

I am most motivated by being told I can’t do something. If someone challenges my ability to do something, I find significant motivation to prove them wrong.

A Career Built on Relationships

BY: MIKE CARROLL | Co-Founder and Former CEO, Heritage Trust Company

Mike Carroll was co-founder of Heritage Trust Company and served as its CEO from 1998-2019. Mike passed away on May 5, 2020, shortly after writing this article.

“No one deserves more credit for Heritage’s success than Mike Carroll. He will be missed by Heritage’s clients, staff and professional partners.” Bond Payne

Mike Carroll

I retired as Heritage Trust Company’s CEO earlier this year after a very happy and fulfilling 22 years, going back to my co-founding of the company in 1998. As I reflect back over my career, I’ve noticed that my fondest memories and proudest accomplishments all seem to have a common thread — they’re built on the strength of relationships.

I have a background as a numbers guy. In college, I began my career balancing the books for a downtown Oklahoma City bank in the evening, after classes let out. But the part of my job that always appealed to me most was its personal side. On many occasions, I feel that I’ve had the opportunity to make a true difference in the lives of my clients, many of which are multigenerational families.

I always liked working to help resolve the tough interpersonal problems that caused friction and hard feelings among family members, leading to disagreements over investments and family business decisions. One of my coworkers once remarked that I could get away with asking my clients questions nobody else could. The reason for that was the strength of the relationships I had spent time building with those people. They trusted that I didn’t have an agenda and was there to help. I opened some doors that needed to be opened so those families could resolve their issues and move forward. One of my clients called me a peacemaker, which I take as a great compliment.

We opened Heritage Trust Company’s first office in 1998 with a staff of just a few people. It was a lot of hard work, especially in those early days — a lot of Saturdays spent at the office. But the strength of our relationships sustained us. We were a great group — people like our co-founder Bond Payne, Senior Vice President Don Balaban, Senior Vice President and Trust Officer Ron Bowles and, of course, our director of operations, Cathy McKinzie. I still talk to some of them almost daily.

Cathy, for my money, is the best operations person in the country. If we had an issue that needed resolution, I knew I could call Cathy and she’d take care of it. It’s nice to work with people whom you feel that strongly about. I’d do anything for this lady, and I believe she feels the same way. We are family.

By opening Heritage, we created 35 good-paying, white-collar jobs at a place where people wanted to work. That’s really something to be proud of, changing the lives of 35 people, and those people’s families. Over time, as you get older, you realize how those jobs made a difference in the overall success of our community.

A few months after my retirement, it became even more apparent to me how much our work affected others’ lives when I had to be hospitalized. While I was recuperating, I got so many nice cards and letters from my clients, some of them very heartfelt and personal, expressing their gratitude: “I don’t know what I would have done without you.” “My family is together today because of you.” They mentioned conversations we’d had that impacted their lives. They mentioned the interpersonal relationships that became stronger as a result of our work together.

Do you know what they didn’t mention at all? Numbers.

Of course numbers matter — we’re a trust company, after all. And over Heritage’s history, we’ve grown in size and improved our investment products and capabilities significantly. Today, we’re able to invest quickly, and in cost- and tax-efficient ways that didn’t even exist when I began my career 40 years ago. But, speaking as a numbers guy, I feel that as long as the fundamentals of good investment management are in place, the numbers tend to take care of themselves.

In the end, it’s not about numbers — it’s about people. If you build a relationship with clients and they know you care, then the work itself becomes simple, and there’s not a better job out there.

To be really successful as a company, you have to have your heart in it. We had our hearts in it from day one, and I know the people at Heritage carrying on our work today do as well.

Argent Financial Group Employee Spotlight – Erik Aagaard

What led you to Argent and what makes it unique?  

The firm I worked for (The Trust Company) was acquired by Argent. The philosophies and priorities of both companies were a good match.

Why do you enjoy working at Argent?  

The vast majority of the people I work with at Argent all have the same goal – serving our clients with (dare I say) humble confidence. I love the positive attitude and willingness to go the extra mile that most people exhibit. 

What does the company mean to you?  

I think this company is an example of a firm succeeding by doing things the right way. As a firm, we are grounded in a foundation of integrity. To me, that is the most important characteristic any person or company can have. 

Recount a favorite memory or project from your time at Argent:  

Argent Leadership Academy (2017). The biggest thing gained was the exposure to so many of the people and personalities that make up Argent. It was an exhilarating and challenging experience.

What has been your proudest moment at Argent?

Being told by a client that I’ve made a difference in their life.

What is a random fact about you?

I love hiking and climbing. My dream job would be as an adventure photographer – but I didn’t have the guts to risk trying it before I got commitments in my life.

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

I think I would be a teacher.

If you could meet anyone, dead or alive, who would it be and why?  

Maybe David Robinson. He did, and continues to do, things the right way.

What’s your favorite thing to do in San Antonio?   

The Riverwalk during Christmas… touristy, but still a fun atmosphere and an incredible sight!

What motivates you?  

My daughters!

What is your favorite quote? 

“What do most people say on their deathbed? They don’t say, ‘I wish I’d made more money.’ What they say is, ‘I wish I’d spent more time with my family and done more for society or my community.’” – David Rubenstein

3 Reasons Why Retirement Plan Sponsors Should Consider Guaranteed Income Options for Participants

Secure Act’s New Rules Loosen Regulations Governing Income Products In Defined Contribution Plans

BY: BRAD KNOWLES, CBFA
Managing Director, Heritage Retirement Plan Advisors

Brad Knowles

More participants in company retirement plans may now be able to utilize guaranteed income instruments as part of their retirement plan thanks to passage of the Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement (SECURE) Act.

Defined contribution plans, such as 401(k) and 403(b) plans, have been the predominant way that most people accumulate wealth for retirement. Those plans, however, are not designed to turn that wealth into a predictable income stream during retirement.

Signed into law at the beginning of 2020, the SECURE Act is the most significant legislation approved by Congress in more than 10 years to improve retirement options. The act includes new rules that help Americans save more for and during retirement and is the first step toward providing plan participants with guaranteed income during retirement.

Demand for guaranteed income products, like annuities, continues to grow as individuals seek to diversify their portfolios and generate income later in their golden years. Sales increased 10 percent in 2018 to $218 billion in 2018 (the latest figures available), according to the Insured Retirement Institute.

Even though sales have increased, annuities still represent a small percentage of the assets Americans have set aside for retirement. A study by the Investment Company Institute estimated that annuities represented less than 10 percent of the $29 trillion in retirement assets in the U.S. as of March 31, 2019. That may change now that the SECURE Act is the law of the land.

Annuities have their drawbacks (see below), but when included within a comprehensive retirement plan, they can play an important role in mitigating stock market risk and providing peace of mind that comes with a guaranteed income stream during retirement. Here are three reasons why more retirement plan sponsors may begin offering participants annuities:

1. Guaranteed income products minimize market risk

Perhaps the most appealing factor of an annuity is the promise of a guaranteed income stream. A 2018 survey by Aegon found that nearly half (52 percent) of respondents were concerned about running out of money in their golden years. It’s a valid concern. Research by the World Economic Forum estimates that the average 65-year-old American will spend all their retirement savings in 10 years.

Another important benefit is that an annuity can help diversity asset allocation in retirement. The certainty of annuity income could minimize the financial impact in a market downturn so retirees are not forced to sell assets when prices have declined. Owning an annuity removes the complex decision-making process of deciding when to sell assets during retirement.

2. New rules reduce employer compliance risk

Before the SECURE Act, plan sponsors were worried about managing the complex regulations on annuities and being held legally responsible if the annuity provider could not meet the income obligations or, worse, went out of business. Only 7 percent of the respondents in the Society for Human Resource Management’s 2019 Employee Benefits survey said their companies offered lifetime income products.

New provisions in the SECURE Act have materially reduced an employer’s compliance risk and financial liability if the annuity provider passes certain tests. For example, employers are protected in the following ways: if an annuity provider has been licensed to sell guaranteed income products by their state insurance commission for the previous seven years; has filed audited financial statements with state regulators; and has maintained financial reserves that meet state requirements.

3. Annuity expenses, fees should become more affordable

One of the biggest criticisms of annuities is that the fees charged by insurance companies can be expensive. While true in some cases, not all annuities have high fees. Just as important, plan sponsors can now keep costs low by prohibiting sales commissions when participants purchase annuities as part of the employer retirement plan.

Passage of the SECURE Act will usher in a new wave of innovation in the design of guaranteed income products. New, cost-effective products will be created to help meet the income needs of American workers in retirement.

Helping save for retirement is one of the most valuable benefits an employer can provide its employees. By improving regulations on guaranteed income products, the SECURE Act has given plan sponsors another arrow in their quiver to help employees achieve their financial goals.

How to Weather an Oil & Gas Industry Bust

3 Tips for Managing Mineral Rights During Volatile Times

BY: DAVID LUKE
President, Argent Mineral Management

David Luke

This spring, mineral rights owners experienced one of the most severe declines in oil prices in the history of our country. Global oil prices were already weak, and then the situation worsened in early March when Russia and Saudi Arabia disagreed and battled over how to stabilize the market, with Saudi Arabia eventually deciding to reverse course and flood the market with product, drastically lowering crude prices.

With incredibly poor timing, the industry problems that came from the market saturation by Saudi Arabia were compounded by the emergence and spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, destroying global demand. This double whammy resulted in a massive amount of available product, with nobody needing it…and quickly, crude oil became literally worthless for a time.

The good news, as of this writing, is that global oil leaders and government regulatory bodies are investigating possible production cuts to stabilize the market. The federal government’s purchasing of U.S. oil to place in the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, as well as possible temporary government financing and assistance programs, may aid the nation’s producers.

While regulatory certainty and market stability are important, mineral rights owners must also develop the right strategy to make it through this difficult time. Here are three tips to help stay the course:

1. Be Disciplined and Diligent

Don’t panic. Trust that the economy and demand for commodities will rebound. They always have. As an example, the transportation industry is one of the largest consumers of oil and gas.  The various businesses associated with this industry have been decimated by “stay-at-home” orders, resulting in a dramatic decrease in everything from personal car usage (gasoline) to air travel (jet fuel) to trucking deliveries (diesel) to ocean shipping (heavy/low fuel oil & diesel). When the economy rebounds, businesses and consumers will quickly increase the use of “planes, trains and automobiles.”

2. Be Wary of Poachers

A wide range of buyers – from private equity firms to billionaires flush with cash to small land brokerages – are ready to buy proven oil and gas assets for pennies on the dollar. When an owner’s monthly $500 royalty check is reduced to $100 or less, it can seem like it’s more of a hassle to deal with the paperwork than to continue owning the asset. Low ball offers for mineral rights might start to look attractive and be tempting, especially when ownership has become more fractionalized in families due to inheritance over generations. Listen to trusted mineral management advisors with extensive, hands-on experience in the oil and gas industry.

3. Trust Your Mineral Manager

The U.S. is one of a few countries that allows private individuals to own the minerals under their land. Business relationships between mineral management firms and oil and gas operators can dramatically help with the challenges that land and mineral owners face. Quality relationships and proper management help result in timely opportunities for the development of mineral assets and can avoid poor decisions that could impact generations of family members. Mineral management has never been for the faint of heart. The history of the oil and gas industry is marked by boom and bust cycles. The key is being able to make the right decisions, and know the right people, to mitigate the damage and stay the course as demand bounces back.

Before the pandemic and surplus, our staff was kept on its toes with complex mineral contract negotiation, extensive and detailed oil and gas accounting and auditing past payments by operators. During and after these rough times these duties remain the same. However, expert experience, quality decision-making and industry connections become more important than ever.

Argent Financial Group Employee Spotlight – Jyotsaana Parajuli

What led you to Argent and what makes it unique?

I moved from Dallas to be close with my family here in Ruston. I was working in public accounting, but I really wanted to get into the private industry. Fortunately for me, Argent had an opening for an Assistant Controller position at the same time. Accepting Argent’s job offer has been one of the best decisions of my life. Argent’s culture of collaboration, organization, relationship and excellence makes it unique.

Why do you enjoy working at Argent?

I enjoy working at Argent because of the people here. They are all very talented, friendly and supportive.

What does the company mean to you?

Argent means an opportunity for me. Opportunity to work for a leading wealth management company. Opportunity to work with a very welcoming and professional group of people. Opportunity to learn from the best minds in the field.

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

Mountain Expedition Guide!

What motivates you?

Learning about new things, at work or in life.

What is your favorite quote?

“If somebody offers you an amazing opportunity but you are not sure you can do it, say yes, then learn how to do it later.” – Richard Branson

Managing a High Touch Business in a Low Touch World

BY: S. BOND PAYNE
Vice Chairman, Corporate Development, Argent Financial Group
Chairman, Argent Trust Company of Oklahoma
Chief Executive Officer, Heritage Wealth Management

Bond Payne

When my daughters were young, they would sometimes ask what I did at the office. Trying not to over complicate things, my usual response was, “I protect people and their money.” The girls are young ladies now and live in Dallas. Ellen works for a securities firm and Anna is studying at Southern Methodist University. Both have been living at home with us for the past six weeks which, despite the pandemic, has provided new and enlightening opportunities to discuss the world and how it is changing.

I also have lately found myself thinking about my grandfather, W. T. Payne, wondering what he would say about all of this. Papa graduated from Oklahoma A&M University in 1918 with a degree in chemistry and entered the Great War as a Captain and scientist studying the virus known as Spanish Flu. After the war, he started Helmerich & Payne with Walt Helmerich and then Big Chief Drilling in 1936. Both companies grew to become internationally recognized oilfield service providers despite the Great Depression, World War II, the Cold War and multiple booms and busts. How I would love to hear his perspective on what we are experiencing now. 

The Board of Innovation, a global business design and innovation strategy firm, recently published an article titled “Shifts in the Low Touch Economy” which outlines 10 changes in consumer behavior in a post-COVID-19 era. Some of the shifts are driven by emotion, while others are driven by science. Some will affect business, while others will impact culture. But I am certain that all of us will be impacted for many years to come.   

The Heritage team has been essentially working from home since mid-March. Other than a few logistical challenges and being isolated from each other, we have been able to operate the business and take care of our clients remotely. While we expect this work arrangement to be temporary, we are also preparing for the emotional and cultural shifts that will change the way we operate for years to come. Here are a few examples from the Board of Innovation that we expect to impact Heritage:

  • Heightened loneliness and anxiety
  • Damaged trust in hygiene of people and products
  • Limited contact with older generations
  • Optimized work from home set-ups

The past few months have been challenging for just about everybody, and Heritage is no exception. We miss seeing our clients and professional partners, and especially sharing a meal, handshake or hug. But one of the advantages Heritage has is that it was founded by people who knew there was a better way to serve clients and who were willing to challenge the status quo. I have been so impressed by the attitude our employees have exhibited through all of this, caring for our clients even as they personally dealt with uncertainty and adapted to a new work environment. They exemplify the Heritage spirit to serve other people and our duty to put the client’s best interest first.  

Rest assured that we will always find ways to serve our clients in a manner that reflects the new order of things and makes everyone feel safe. And just as I told my daughters many years ago, we remain committed to protecting you and your money for generations to come.  

Argent Financial Group Employee Spotlight – Ty Pendergrass

What led you to Argent and what makes it unique?

In the last half of 1989 Kyle McDonald reached out to me about his desire to launch the first independent trust company in Louisiana. I was 35 at the time and was looking for a new challenge and opportunity to be a part of a unique venture.

Why do you enjoy working at Argent?

Working at Argent has allowed me to do what I enjoy the most – building deep and long relationships – and helping clients and co-workers identify and meet their financial and often personal goals.

What does the company mean to you?

In late 1989 or early 1990 as plans were being made to launch the Trust Company of Louisiana – now Argent – I remember sharing with Kyle that I wanted to be a part of a company that the people of North Louisiana could be proud of. I believe that goal has been exceeded way beyond what I could have ever imagined 30 years ago. Today Argent is a company that every community where we have a presence is served honorably and competently. I am extremely blessed to have spent the last 30 years working at Argent.

Recount a favorite memory or project from your time at Argent. 

I have many good memories over the past 30 years, however probably the most memorable occurrence was in 2008 when leasing in the Haynesville Shale was taking place. People were standing in a line out the door of our office waiting for an opportunity to lease their land. It was a crazy time in many ways. I had certainly not seen anything like it before and I truly doubt that we will ever see anything like it again.

What is a random fact about you?

During my college years I worked for a veterinarian who talked me into taking on pet grooming to earn a little extra money. I agreed and the adventure began. I do not recall how many dogs I groomed, but I never had a repeat customer!

What’s your favorite thing about Minden?

Years ago I heard a famous theologian say that all of us have three great needs – transcendence, truth and community. Community can and does mean much more than where we live, but I really enjoy the community where I live and work. It certainly is not perfect, but it is a place that has allowed me to flourish professionally and serve my neighbor. I also appreciate the Argent community where I have been able to have a very small part of a company that strives to do the right things in the right way.

Argent Financial Group Employee Spotlight – Ann Marie Mills

Meet Ann Marie Mills, Argent senior vice president of employee benefits, who has worked for our parent company and its predecessor since 1985!

What led you to Argent and what makes it unique?

What was then Ruston State Bank’s trust department provided the opportunity to stay in Ruston and use my Louisiana Tech finance degree! How grateful I am to live and raise a family in the great town while enjoying a lifetime career with the best people who built an awesome wealth management company.

Why do you enjoy working at Argent? 

What an awesome group of caring, quality, knowledgeable people that I call friends and coworkers! The team that makes Argent a great company is a blessing to serve with!

What does the company mean to you?

Argent is a huge slice in my pie chart called life! How blessed I have been to travel this road with great clients and coworkers. I’m so proud of where we have been and what the future holds!

What’s the biggest trend you see in your field right now?

It has been exciting to experience the evolution of the retirement plan industry! My job has evolved immensely due to the law changes and the technology developments over the years.  This growth and development is continuing at a rapid pace.

What is your favorite quote? 

“Everything will work out because it always does.” – Ann Marie Mills

Psalm 46:10, “Be still and know that I am God.”

What motivates you?

I love being a resource for information and solutions to those that are beginning to save and to those who are enjoying the fruits of their efforts. 

Argent Financial Group Employee Spotlight – Mike Jones

In celebration of our parent company’s 30th anniversary, this week’s 30-year employee spotlight is Mike Jones, managing director/investment services of Argent Advisors.

What led you to Argent and what makes it unique?

Having graduated from Louisiana Tech University I was already familiar with Ruston, Louisiana. My wife and I desired to raise our family in a setting like Ruston and that was the initial draw. Ironically, I felt that meant I would be working for a small investment firm. Never could I imagine that we would grow to the size that we are today.

Why do you enjoy working at Argent?

The mission. The people. The flexibility. I do not take my responsibilities lightly. It helps that I am accompanied in my duties with a team of cohorts that have my respect, admiration and loyalty. We have a special bond which I pray will never be broken.

What does the company mean to you?

One’s work should not define an individual. Who we are and what makes us unique should go far deeper. But our work can and should contribute to that identity. Argent does that for me. It would be most difficult to imagine my life over the last 30 years without this company.

Recount a favorite memory or project from your time at Argent: 

It has to be when a customer of mine accidentally gave me the wrong ticker for a stock and I decided to do a little research on it. We both bought some and it went from four dollars to $40 in the scope of the month. We sold it and two weeks later it was worth $600 a share. How can one not forget the days of the internet bubble! 

What is on your wish list for the next 10 years with Argent?

I want to take my staff to Switzerland, my favorite country outside of the USA.

What is a random fact about you?

I have ridden a bike to the highest paved road in all of Europe. Five hours up, two hours down.