As we turn the calendar to 2019, I’ve been reflecting back on our progress at Argent over the past 12 months. In short, 2018 was busy! From the inside, our growth has felt measured and steady. But when I take a step back and look at the whole year, it’s amazing how much we’ve accomplished.
In addition to finalizing some important acquisitions — Independence Trust in Nashville and AmeriTrust in Tulsa — we opened a number of new offices, including one in New Orleans and three in Texas (Austin, Dallas and Fort Worth). All have outstanding growth potential and enhance our footprint throughout the region. In addition, bringing Independence Trust and Live Oak Bank’s trust business into the Argent family helps us diversify our offerings and solidifies our company as an industry leader in funeral and cemetery trust services.
We also significantly increased our presence in Birmingham by hiring several key professionals and establishing a new trust operations center. This center allows us to centralize and streamline our back-office operations with specialized, state-of-the-art software. Bringing these responsibilities in-house creates greater efficiency and flexibility, which allows us to enhance our client service and communication. This was an important step for our company’s future.
Overall, our sustained growth has been noteworthy, as evidenced by Argent being named to the Inc. 5000 as one of the nation’s fastest-growing private companies. But none of this is possible unless we continue to employ and develop highly capable professionals. We’re proud of the recent additions we’ve made across our footprint and the success of all our colleagues. Throughout my travels across the company, there is always a common theme that our professionals say has driven their success: a relentless focus on serving our clients.
At Argent’s core, we have a service mindset. We serve one client at a time, one day at a time. If I’ve learned anything over the years, it’s that no single client is alike. A key differentiator for Argent is our ability to customize our approach and service to deliver the client exactly what they need. Our scale and sustainability allow for us to bring comprehensive internal resources to the table to take care of our clients.
As we wind down 2018, we’ve seen a volatile few months for the stock market after several years of strong growth. Some skittishness on the part of investors is understandable, but what gives me comfort is that our professionals are highly experienced and remain focused on the long term. Many of them have been in their jobs for decades, so their deep understanding of the market’s idiosyncrasies helps our clients feel confident that they’re on the right track financially.
Looking out into 2019, we’re going to stay mindful of where our industry is heading. We’re always aware of technology advances and other changes in our industry, and our flexibility and creativity will continue to allow us to serve the unique needs of each relationship.
No matter what ups and downs the market may experience, clients are ultimately looking for peace of mind and to be served well — those things aren’t going to change. We will serve with humble confidence and keep only our clients’ best interest in mind — those things won’t change either.
We’re incredibly grateful for the opportunity to serve and wish you and yours a prosperous 2019.