Many don’t know that Argent hasn’t always been “Argent Financial Group.”
How’d we get our name? It’s a good time to tell that story, for at least three reasons:
1| It’s Mardi Gras—the time of the year when Louisianians celebrate our French heritage and we say French phrases like “Laissez les bon temps rouler!”
2| “Argent” originated as a French word.
3| Our company got its start in Louisiana.
Let’s begin at our beginning—with the stock market crash of 1929. As the Great Depression unfolded, a tiny bank in a small town in north central Louisiana made a decision: Ruston State Bank (RSB) formed a trust department in 1930, of all years.
I can’t imagine how difficult that must have been. It couldn’t have been easy to gain the confidence of skittish investors during those years. And yet the venture was at least a modest success.
Fast forward to June of 1985. After attending law school and working briefly at a law firm in Baton Rouge, my wife Tisdale, our then only daughter Brooks, and I returned to our beloved college town of Ruston. I’d been hired to head up that very same trust department at RSB.
When I started at the bank, we were managing $12 million in client assets. We had 4 employees. There were lots of growing pains, but that meant we were growing.
By 1990, the holding company for Ruston State Bank had acquired 4 other banks but RSB was the only bank in the holding company with a trust department. We proposed spinning the trust department out of the bank into a trust company as another subsidiary. That was accomplished May 1, 1990, with the formation of The Trust Company of Louisiana (and we were responsible for a whopping $48 million in client assets!)
By mid-1991, the bank holding company was exploring the possibility of selling. Naturally, this sparked a lot of uncertainty. One of our then 12 employees, Lucius McGehee, likes to tell the story of he and I sitting in the drive-thru of the Burger King in Natchitoches, Louisiana one day during those anxious weeks, wondering if maybe we should dust off our resumes.
But a different idea bubbled up. “What if we put together a group and bought the trust company and made it independent?” So, that’s what we did. A small group of friends and staff bought The Trust Company of Louisiana and what we now know as Argent Advisors from the bank holding company on November 1, 1991. (And we were then at $75 million in client assets!)
After a decade of encouraging growth, we began to see certain limitations with both our structure and our name. So, in 2000, we made the decision to convert our state charter into a national one, form a holding company and change our name. We saw this move as a way to better communicate our broader range of services, and also help us escape the perception that TCL was only a one-state entity.
We didn’t want to be thought of predominantly as a “Louisiana only institution.” But we were proud of our Louisiana roots. We needed a name that honored our heritage while still opening doors for us.
Enter the French word “argent.” Back in the 1980s, through the Louisiana Bankers Association, I had gotten to know the CEO of a bank in Houma, LA. That was Argent Bank (“argent” means silver, or silver coins—in other words, money). The name stuck with me for a few years.
Later, when that bank sold, the name was not reserved. There was no longer an “Argent” brand in Louisiana.
So, we registered the name. And in March of 2000, with some $600 million in client assets, “Argent Financial Group” was officially formed.
At the most basic and practical level, this name change moved us up in the alphabet. We went from the T’s to the A’s. People smile when I say that, but that detail is more significant than it might seem.
At a public and business level, the Argent name afforded us broader and broader appeal. What once was a single office—just a few employees—in a small North Louisiana town, has now grown to 300 financial professionals in 30 markets across 12 southern states.
So, now you know the story behind the Argent name. “Argent” means money. And our name fits. We’re currently responsible for more than $38 billion in client assets.
But as we work to protect, manage and grow all those client assets, we don’t forget that our real business is people, not money. It’s always been this way, and it always will be.
Even though we’re a financial institution, our goal isn’t to make money just for the sake of making money. Instead, we’re on a mission to help individuals, families, businesses and public bodies grow their wealth so they can make a tangible difference in the lives of their family members and their communities.
In short, we’re helping people leave a legacy.
Or—since we’re speaking French this month—so they can laisser un héritage.
Happy Mardi Gras!